Tilly and Herbie – the chalk and cheese of the dog world. My life with two very different Jack Russells.
Someone recently described Tilly as Love in a Fur Coat. They’re right. Loyalty is etched across her little features and the word Love is spelt out above her in flashing lights. Tilly is the true embodiment of dogged devotion. She has eyes and ears only for us
Her predecessor in our lives, however, was less Love in a Fur Coat and more Trouble on Four Legs. Herbie, who went off to the happy hunting ground more than three years ago, was a law unto himself. He could only show affection and loyalty if there was food in the offing, and the word “obedience” clearly didn’t figure in his vocabulary.
It was Herbie who attacked every dog he met, of whatever size; it was he who jumped on the table and gobbled two cakes when my back was turned; he who dragged out the entire contents of the kitchen bin across the kitchen floor.
When it came to discipline, Herbie relished breaking the rules: leave the kitchen door open by mistake and he would be out and up the stairs in a flash, every single time. Little Tilly, on the other hand, investigated upstairs once just after she moved in – but only once. A few firm words from me and she has never done it again.
She is, you see, an honorary human, and probably happiest curled up next to me on the sofa. She would never dream of jumping on the table, let alone putting her nose near the bin. Apart from both dogs enjoying a little piece of cheese as a treat I cannot think of any other similarities between them.
Herbie could not bear any car journey, long or short. Whether the trip was three miles or 30, he would fuss, fidget and whimper every yard of the way. Tilly thinks cars are wonderful, even if she does regard the car as territory to be defended. If we are waiting at traffic lights she will look ferocious, growl and then bark furiously at any motorcyclist who pulls up too close to her window.
Tilly completely ignores storms, thunder, heavy rain, fireworks, and rifle shots from the nearby shooting range. I need hardly tell you what a nervous wreck the blustering, bossy Herbie became when confronted with such horrors.
When he moved in with us, I think we were the last in a long succession of people who had given up on Herbie. He was already more than eight years old and set in his wicked ways. We soon discovered that he had an alarming habit of attacking the person nearest to him if he was disturbed when sleeping in front of the fire. The only way to stop him was to ensure that his bed was as far away from us as possible. Of course Tilly would never do anything as uncivilised as that.
On reflection, those years of coping with the irascible Herbie were an ideal training period for us as we learned to cope with his moods and bad habits. We became experts at working out strategies for handling him. All that knowledge and dog psychology (or dog-ology as I call it) seems wasted on Tilly who is such a pleasure to live with. There is just one thing, though: she still cannot understand that she will never catch a squirrel, although you do have to admire her persistence and optimism.