A letter to “Over-The-Top” Earl

Dear Earl, embarrassing creature…

You don’t deserve this — not after yesterday. But being free of you, I’ll probably wax eloquent on your behalf. Now you’re off your home turf, I bet you’re curled in your basket in that doggy-hotel, rolling your eyes as all the others kick up a corporate fuss.

When we first got you, how like your sister you looked! You snuggled trustingly, reinforcing grandmotherly opinion that kids are happier when they’ve got a dog to talk to.

We didn’t know that your sister would become as bedragglingly cute as the Lowchen breed dictated, but that you’d develop as a short-haired throwback. Bang went my plans to tie your hair back from over your eyes with ribbons. You’ve never needed the “lion cut” that suits your supposed breed.

Okay, I admit your tail is a glorious turned-back plume, your crooked nose cute.

“They’re gourmands,” said your first mother. I take that to mean that they guzzle everything. No surprise that you eat too fast and chunder on my kitchen mat. Then if I don’t remove the said deposit promptly, you scoff it again (should I then be pleased?)

“They’re quite barky dogs,” said your first mother. Just listen to her lot when somebody passes. Good job they’re a little out of town, but we aren’t.

I did expect a lap-dog mentality. Wasn’t your breed a favourite with the aristocracy a few hundred years ago? Got your portraits painted, didn’t you? — y’know, peeping out from under tablecloths or sitting beside work-baskets.

So why the German Shepherd mentality instead? Deep-throated sound instead of catchy little “Yip, yip”s? Why, when the very first real German Shepherd you saw made you wet yourself — in the safety of the car!

Admittedly, you don’t fit on my lap. Your first Mum can’t believe it’s you. And your birth family doesn’t want to own you.

Remember your first Doggie Class, when you wee-d on my leg? Remember those stray cats, and how you’d scrabble-on-the-lino-getting-nowhere to get at them? Like a TV cartoon. The cats were the only ones that learned better.

Now, that mouse you caught inside: too easy. One chomp, drop it on the carpet, slobber and nudge it to urge its continued participation.

Tough luck: he was a bad sport.

Time after time I wish we’d surrendered you for training as a drug dog. It’s cute how you sniff my breath (spring onions? chocolate?). It’s not cute having to haul you off anybody who steps inside the door as you gather extensive olfactory information.

We’d really prefer people thought us cultivated and restrained.

Just once, you were handy. I was at the open front door, bent double holding your collar. Who had rung the doorbell? There in the middle of the front lawn, his eyes slewing sideways, judging the best escape route — a MAN — how dare he?

Strangulated threats gurgled past your collar — I know! Stephen King could use you for sound effects.

(Turned out to be an Electrolux salesman, that guy. So all I’ll say is — Good on ya.)

I know your pet hates: whistling; kids invading “your” footpath; farmers who, bearing sweat of honest toil, deliver their offspring here for music lessons; wandering dogs, birdies, pussy cats and meeces.

And your loves? Squeaky toys, which I test out in the supermarket before buying. Escapology. Loose, scruncheable mats. Paper bags which we blow up and burst and squash into a ball so you have something to kill.

I’m disappointed you never learned any jumping tricks. In case you don’t realise, I know you spend time on the dining table while I’m out of the house.

You can’t read clocks. To you, five minutes of me ferrying kids to school is abandonment akin to a day. That’s why I do as much as I can in one outing — I hate the reunions.

Hey, your first dog-dosing, the chap labelled you as a prima donna. Yeah, you’re an absolute wimp when you have time to think. You cry whenever I go to the letterbox. Once you were convinced you were dying: the vet just shrugged. Yet, full pelt after a supposed intruder, you never bother how you damage yourself as you barge and scrabble. I swear you’d happily die defending your turf. I should be proud.

Is there doggy testosterone?

We learned that early-morning walks need to be on the country roads first, before the town streets, for your system to get going. We expect that for the first five minutes you’ll be up front gagging and gasping, until you settle down and commence the crap. The risk is that by the time we hit the footpaths again, there will still be more to go.

What a bad mistake we made to deliver you to that doggy motel yesterday without that morning walk. Our fault I guess that you crapped over every inch of that lady’s front lawn.

One day, post-Earl, we’ll purchase a lounge suite that will never have hair, and a dining table minus scratches. We’ll sit unconcerned when the wind blows the gate open.

In the meantime yes, I’m having a lovely time, and I won’t see you for three sleeps. Three sleeps with no dog wimping behind the bathroom door at dawn.


So long, Earl Over-The-Top Houdini.

Ever so relieved,




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