Canine Family & Friends

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Rupert: The Clown with OCD (he could be really annoying)

Copyright © Judith Shaw

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When he was only eight weeks old, Rupert left his mother and moved to Blackheath, a small ex-mining town snuggled up against the Blue Mountains National Park in Australia. Our family met Rupert when we moved in next door.

Rupert is a very funny fellow—although, like most border collies, he almost completely lacks a sense of humor. He makes us laugh by the way he acts out his own deepest self.

Once the children in Rupert’s family were all old enough to go to school, he was left without an overarching job. He loved coming to our house to harass Tom the Wonder Horse and could put in whole eight-hour days trying to move him around with his eyes.

If our ditzy lab Muffin approached him for a chat, Rupert would growl and snap at her with the dog equivalent of “Haven’t I told you never to call me at the office?”

We didn’t mind having Rupert around. He was a really good bloke, and we liked him. But Roger wanted him at home and often called to ask us to send him back.

One of us would go out to the paddock, point to his house and sternly say, “Rupert, go home!” He would snap a quick salute and leave the property on the double. Ten minutes later he would be back, crouched down near the pasture fence glaring at Tom.

Rupert was fulfilling the letter of the law, but not its spirit. He’d run home, touch his verandah and run back to our house. Then he could virtuously think, “It’s okay. I went home. Now I’m back.” His obedience might be short-lived, but he always did what he was told. It drove him crazy when other dogs didn’t.

Case in point: Muffin was the original Sarong Party Girl who thought all rules were for the birds. Housebreaking? Who needs it? Coming when called? Don’t be silly. And best of all, from her point of view, anything left on the counter belonged to her. We lost a lot of dinners before believing she couldn’t be trained.

She was head over heels for Rupert, but he rarely gave her the time of day.

One morning we took Muffin for a walk in the bush, and Rupert tagged along. Muffin caught a scent or sight of something interesting and took off. Rupert looked offended.

We called and called. No Muffin. Rupert started to pace. After about fifteen minutes she waltzed back with a “What’s your problem?” look on her face. Rupert grabbed her by the neck and dumped her on her back, seriously annoyed by her disobedience.

Then Roger walked up, and I ran over to tell him what Rupert had just done to Muff. I was being too American, I could tell, and Roger backed away looking skeptical. In the meantime, Muffin had wandered off again, and again took her own sweet time coming back. Rupert dumped her on her back. I can’t say Roger was impressed, but at least he knew I wasn’t making it up.

Rupert being comical and Rupert being a nuisance were just points on his OCD spectrum. There was, however, one episode where Rupert was a serious pain in the neck.

Fast-forward a couple of years. Sadly, Muffin had gone to her reward after an overdose of chocolate. We had a puppy, a Staffordshire bull terrier called Zelda. I have a few Muffin-Zelda stories, but they will appear later.

When Zelda was about eight months old she went into season for the first and only time. We kept her on a leash, fenced in our back yard, even strung electric tape on the fence to keep male dogs away. To be fair, Zelda made sure Rupert knew the situation. Whenever we took her for a walk she left p-mails all along his boundaries.

We did everything we could to keep him away from Zelda, but he kept a sharp lookout from his side of the fence. One afternoon we were distracted by visitors and went into the house, leaving Zelda outside. Rupert jumped the fence and had his way with our sweet little girl. By the time we saw what was happening, the two dogs were tied, and all we could do was wait for it to be over.

We took Zelda inside, where she immediately jumped into our twelve-year-old daughter’s lap. Jess pushed her away. “I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.

Zelda was spayed the next week. Now that she’s gone, I’m kind of sorry we didn’t let her have the litter and keep a pup, but what’s done can’t be undone. It’s a shame. The Rupert-Zelda combo would have been awesome.

Canine Family & Friends
Muffin the Good-Time Dog


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2 thoughts on “Canine Family & Friends

  1. Marg.

    It’s one of those Aussie summer nights when sleep alludes so I quietly sneak downstairs with my ipad and check my emails. One from Judith, announcing her new short story website. Perfect timing!

    An hour-and-half or so later I have devoured every story with the greed that comes from indulging in guilty pleasure at 4 a.m.-ish. Each tasty morsel provides more detail to background knowledge, as I have known Judith for many years. Each story confirms my friend’s gift for storytelling with a naturally flowing writing style and ‘voice’ that makes for compelling reading.

    I hope there will be more fiction in the weeks and months ahead.

    Back to bed now, perchance to dream of Judith’s departed friends, her muses perhaps: Tom, Cricket, Muffin, Zelda, et al.

    1. Judith Shaw

      I’m overwhelmed by your comment about the website. Today has been so exciting that I’m almost without words, but what you wrote is so lovely it brings tears to my eyes. They will have to speak for me.



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