The Wonder Dog

This is the first of my Patreon-requested posts for this month. Jennie Rigg asked me to write about Gary The Wonder Dog.

A Jack Russell dog, looking up at the camera, wagging his tail so hard it blurs

I don’t normally write much about my home life, and I’m generally better at talking about ideas than about people or events, so I apologise if this isn’t as good as Jennie hoped…

About ten and a half years ago, my niece was nine years old, and for her ninth birthday she got a one-year-old male Jack Russell, who she named Gary after the snail from Spongebob Squarepants, a show with which she was obsessed at the time. Gary lived with her and my sister for eight years, but when my niece was seventeen she got herself pregnant. Gary is a very, very, territorial little dog, so he came to live with us, because my sister and niece were afraid he wouldn’t get on very well with the baby.

I’ve always loved dogs, but hadn’t had one between the ages of eighteen and thirty-six because I was in rented accommodation with rules against pets, but we’d just bought our own house and started talking about getting a dog when Gary became free.

For some reason, “Gary” doesn’t seem like quite enough of a name for a dog with such a big personality, so his name often gets expanded (especially by me) when we talk about or to him. Sometimes he’s Garrington, sometimes Sir Garringford, but most often he’s Gary The Wonder Dog (because of his slight resemblance to Fanny The Wonder Dog, Julian Clary’s old double-act partner — Fanny actually looks totally unlike Gary, but weirdly looks very like him in some of the black and white photos in Clary & Paul Merton’s book The Joan Collins Fan Club: My Life With Fanny the Wonder Dog)

He’s a Jack Russell (probably actually a Russell Terrier — there are three different breeds all descended from the same 19th century original, and all of which look very similar, but his legs are shorter than the standard Jack Russell), and he’s… a little neurotic. He was brought up by my sister, who like myself is autistic and has an anxiety disorder, and he seems to have picked up some of that anxiety. He’s also still not entirely used to living in the big city after having spent most of his life in small Cheshire towns.

In particular, he’s very territorial about men, because he spent most of his life living in an all-female house. While he absolutely *adores* Holly, and he can sometimes be very affectionate indeed towards me (especially when I’m writing anything, which is always the time he most wants to jump up on me and have a long cuddle — he spent four hours on my lap this morning, for example). he can occasionally take a snap at me if I come near him when he’s eating certain foods (we’ve had to ban him from having Dentastix, because he’ll “bury” them under a cushion in the middle of the living room floor, then snap at my ankles if I dare try to walk anywhere within a foot or so of it, which is most of the living room). He also can’t be allowed to go into our bed if there’s a chance I’ll be wanting to go into it while he’s there — he’s fine with me being in there before him, but if I get up and get back in bed, or if I come in when he’s lying on it, he goes absolutely *berserk*.

It sounds from that, though, that he’s a bad dog. He really, really isn’t. He’s not at all well trained, but he’s *very* well-meaning, very bright within a limited range (and utterly clueless outside it), and interested in everything. He’s also very, very, enthusiastic about life — he will literally dance around in circles with excitement when I get up from eating, in case I might brush some crumbs into his bowl.

(His favourite is when I used to eat pasta ready meals and he got to lick the cheese sauce from the container — food *and* a toy! — but I can’t do that any more as carbohydrates aren’t good for me).

He’s absolutely full of personality, and it’s fascinating observing him and trying to figure out how his tiny brain works. He seems to have a sort of animistic theory of the world, in which things either move and are alive or don’t move, and whenever that theory is upset he gets very distressed — as an example, I once threw him his rope toy, and it caught on the doorknob for a cupboard door. He pulled on the rope, and the door opened, and you could not *imagine* a more freaked-out little dog. It upset his entire worldview.

He has just about enough theory of the world to be bamboozled by “magic” tricks too. If I hold his rope in one hand, put my hands behind my back, take the rope in the other hand and then show him the now-empty original, he is utterly, utterly, astonished.

My favourite story about him, though, is when he first came to stay here. We have occasional problems with mice, because we live near a lot of takeaways and Manchester council, being a Labour one-party state, never bothers with things like rubbish collection or street cleaning. Gary, being a terrier, likes to chase furry things that are smaller than him. One day a week or so after he came here, we heard a rustling from the kitchen — a mouse had got into an open Doritos packet that had been left in there. Gary stood just near the kitchen door, growling deep in his throat, fur bristling, then bolted into the kitchen… and came back in a second later crunching on a Dorito. Presumably the mouse had dropped it in its haste to get away, and Gary the Mighty Hunter had immediately gone for that instead of getting the mouse.

(Thankfully this has not been repeated, and does not signify that mice have learned how to tame dogs. We are not heading for a Planet of the Mice scenario.)

Anyway, Gary is a Good Dog. He also has good opinions on disability, as this appearance by him on TV news talking about it shows:

OK, Holly might be helping him with the words, but you get the idea. Gary also has a Twitter, and Holly helps him with those words too: @GaryTWDogEsq.

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