Early last year, while she and I were first estranged, Sharon decided she wanted another dog. She already had one, Poppy, a Lakeland/Jack Russell/potato cross that was getting on for nine years old so she supposed a younger mutt would keep the grande dame youthful in her dotage. Poppy is to say the least, excitable, as one would expect given her parentage. She also definitely lacks a certain degree of intelligence (again, one looks toward her lineage, this time the tuberiferous part), for instance despite seeing him virtually every day at the same time for the last 7 years, the postman still presents a very real threat to the safety of the pack, one that can only be thwarted by barking insanely at the door. This obviously works as he never breaks in and nobody has yet been killed. She is also wont to go from deep sleep to yelping idiot in the space of 0.01 seconds if she hears any noise the clump of misfiring synapses that passes for a brain interprets as coming from the door, even if it was merely a slipper falling from a carelessly raised foot. It was thought that company in the form of a more intelligent and restrained colleague would calm her.
When Sharon mentioned to me that she was getting another dog I cautioned her against it. Was she sure she could cope, being that she has reduced mobility? Yes, it would be be fine, she assured me. Anyway, I no longer lived there so I didn't really have a say in the matter. It didn't matter as she'd already seen a lovely dog at the dogs' home in Stoke, very cute and friendly. 60 quid later and Zara, a terrier of indeterminate parentage was the newest member of the family.
It soon became clear that Zara was a forceful character and not without a streak of jealousy. Whatever Poppy wanted to do, Zara would try and better. If Poppy barked, Zara would bark, only louder. If Poppy careered down the stairs, Zara would overtake her and woe betide anyone in her path. If Poppy jumped on the sofa with you then Zara would jump on Poppy. If Poppy was eating, it wouldn't be for long. Neither was Zara house-trained.
In April I returned to the fold and tried to get to know her. She was an unusual looking thing, not at all pretty. I likened her to the outcome of the improbable liaison between Spit the Dog out of Tiswas and a hyena. I wasn't alone in thinking that either as several people commented to me that they thought she'd look more at home cruising the veldt for a wounded dikdik. It was more likely that there was a bit of Scottie and some Irish terrier in her (which reminds me of the thing Phil Lynott used to say to ladies in the front row at Thin Lizzy gigs: "Have you got any Irish in you? Would you like some?") and we called her a Celtic terrier. She certainly hated Cairns and always wanted to have a pop if one came nearby. Irish terriers like to be the centre of attention and prefer to be the only dog, so maybe there was some truth in that guess. She was a very strong dog for her size and had energy to burn, far too much for Sharon to deal with without knackering herself so I started to take her for long walks along the Shroppie Union canal. I couldn't burn her out at all but she did like to learn. Sharon had taught her a few obedience tasks and I got her to sit and stay over long distances and to seek. I wouldn't say I was becoming particularly attached but we were certainly developing a relationship.
Which was more than Sharon and I were doing and we parted once again in July, as has been mentioned several times on these pages. After I'd moved out Zara became increasingly fractious. She turned bully and would scrap with Poppy for little reason and often drew blood. Poppy loathed being in the same room as her. There was a really unpleasant streak in her and eventually Sharon had enough and took her back to the dogs' home as a lost cause. One of the final straws was when Sharon got up to go to the loo and Zara jumped on the bed and promptly pissed all over it. Not at all endearing, especially when Sharon's medical condition demands almost clean room conditions.
Despite her short and difficult sojourn, she has left us with some abiding memories. There was the time on the canal when she took an interest in a family of swans, rather too much interest for daddy swan who surprised Zara by hissing at her and doing that standing on water thing that swans do. Zara shot backwards at a rate of knots, ending up in the hedge the other side of the towpath and provoking a gale of LOLs from your host. Not the least of these memories though were the ones resulting from her compulsive thievery. Whereas you could put your dinner plate down in front of Poppy, walk away, go to the loo or play a round of golf all the while safe in the knowledge that your food would still be there on your return, Zara viewed any kind of food - dog or human - as fair game. Turn away for a split second and she'd be at your plate; put a handbag on the floor and she'd be in it, looking for anything remotely edible. In fact, anything on the floor had nourishment potential in Zara's eyes. And I mean anything.
One evening, Sharon's youngest daughter came back with a friend. Her friend put her bag on the floor and both of them nipped out across to the garage for something. Zara was into the bag immediately and by the time the girls got back she'd already polished off a packet of chewing gum and 20 Marlboro Lights. They were only the entree and dessert though, earlier in the day the disreputable animal had had the hors d'oeuvres. Said daughter had been "entertaining" her then beau in her boudoir, doing what all adventurous teenagers do. Zara was also in the room, minding her own business. Until, that is, the "activities" passed their inevitable zenith. Being responsible, the gentleman concerned had taken precautions. On collapse of the scrum, the "precaution" was removed and temporarily deposited on the floor, as one sometimes does. I say temporarily as Zara, scenting free protein, enjoyed a once in a lifetime latex-wrapped take-away.