Polly Greeks: On never getting a second dog…

One dog is fun; two dogs are a nightmare, wails Polly.

If time wasn’t linear and a future self could advise the Polly of the past, she’d holler across the chronological divide never to get a second dog. At the risk of sounding weird, I’ve tried it, but like warning someone against a new love affair, my time-traveling counsel fell on deaf ears. Twelve months ago, I was far too smitten with our new puppy to heed caution or see evident truths. Two dogs will be twice the fun, I gaily declared.

Twice the mess? Double the trouble and volume? What curmudgeonly nonsense, my naive former self now declares to the fist-clenched, raging creature that is her future. She can’t see the carnage that’s coming; the potted bulbs all dug up and ruined, the disembowelled rubbish bags, the noses ripped from the children’s stuffed toys, the possum entrails vomited over the rug, and the howling child mourning the savaged end of his escaped guinea pig. Back then, all anyone saw was an extraordinarily cute, fluffy baby sporting oversized ears and a forgivably impish black nose.

Half-fox terrier, half-mystery parentage, Sala the pup is, unfortunately, intelligent. One doesn’t like to compare fur-children’s abilities unflatteringly, so we lower our voices when doing so, but husband James and I agree that contrasted to Sala, our old dog Pax isn’t the sharpest snout in the pack. Thankfully, he’s never mastered going upstairs to our beds.

Door handles remain a riddle. While he can kill a possum with one snap of his ferocious jaws, learning how to climb onto benches and tabletops to hunt pies and puddings is not a talent. Nor has he figured out the machinations of the automatic chook-feeder.

Pax and Sala.

For some time, I failed to believe Sala had either. Peering with disbelief into the consistently empty contraption, I eyed our chickens suspiciously. They’d never hoovered up maize and wheat like that before.

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“It must be possums,” I announced a little doubtfully. James promptly shot three lurking about the henhouse, but an emptied chook-feeder still greeted me daily. Worse, eggs began vanishing too. With no breach in the chook-run fence, the thief’s identity had me foxed. Then eight-year-old Zen alleged he saw Sala squeezing through the gate-latch hole with an egg in her mouth.

Given the outlandishness of some other claims and the fact that the hole was considerably smaller than the dog, I dismissed his detective work until a wheat-laden dog poo confronted me on the lawn.

Mice possess the ability to dislocate their bones and ooze through tiny gaps. Although the copulation requires imagination, could mouse-DNA be part of Sala’s paternal enigma? Because Zen was right. We saw our dog, caught in the act, worming sinuously through the gate-latch hole, cradling an egg in her jaws.

Obviously, this stage in dog-raising is all about training and patience. The misdemeanours raining faster than excavated soil from our probing pup should, hopefully, start to cease as lessons are learned. Judging from her extremely swollen snout, Sala won’t poke it in the beehives again. Electric shock training has also made her give the kiwis of our valley a wide berth.

“She actually really likes birds,” Zen told me earnestly the day she chased and caught a duck. “She only wanted to give it a hug.”

He and Sala are partners in crime, wrestling one another across the lounge with yelps and growls until they’re turfed outdoors. “Would you like me to rehome her?” I asked my son during his raging grief at the mauled end of the runaway guinea pig. His hatred of Sala was ferocious, but he stopped to consider the prospect. “No,” he said eventually. “I think I’d regret it.”

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I know what he means. The whole family froze in horror the day Sala flung herself into a swollen stream and was swept away. Suddenly pup-less, our futures seemed barer; dreary and colourless. I laughed with relief when our bedraggled dog eventually reappeared on the bank, but Sala had no time for hugs. Trotting past, she leapt again into the muddy torrent, surfing the current with her infectiously wide, canine grin.


After numerous offshore adventures, Polly Greeks, her husband James and their children Vita and Zendo chose to put down roots in a stand of isolated Northland forest where they are slowly building a mortgage-free, off-grid home and discovering an entirely new way of life.

NZ Life and Leisure This article first appeared in NZ Life & Leisure Magazine.

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