Chapter 4
(9th April 2000):

The Puppy Garden Dropout

Dear Folks.

It's me, Gráinne, ready to share my newest antics with you. The biggest news: they call me the "Puppy Garden Dropout". I behaved so badly every Friday night that Mummy and Daddy got tired of being the class dummies and being told they were doing everything wrong although they did their best to follow Thomas' instructions. This past Friday was the straw that broke the camel's back, when after Thomas called the whole gang together to tell them what losers we are (while, by the way, I sat politely at Mummy's side), he pointedly said that some people make their dogs hyper (Can you believe it? My boring parents?). Mummy said later that she began to wonder why we went through this and whether this kiss-kiss "nice girl" stuff is as appropriate for a terrier as for a border collie with no personality of its own. She had fed me whole pocketfuls of reward crumbs until I didn’t care whether I ever saw one again and played with that stupid ball on a string. I'm not going to play by those rules; only a stupid border collie that stares at his owner from birth is going to do that junk. I grab the string; if there's anything else more interesting in the area, I grab it. I can get balls at home. The next morning she bought me a choker chain and dug out the doggie seat belt. I knew it then: "Happy days are here again". For them but not for me. I heeled like a whiz (on the leash); no sense in taking any risks with that thing round my neck. Mummy decided to use the iron hand, dropped out of puppy garden and Daddy agreed. I guess I've had it. Might as well give in gracefully so as not to lose snout.

I was quiet all day today to make up for the stress I caused them Friday and Saturday morning (jumping all over the car). This afternoon we went for a walk with Rambo and he told me, too, where to go! I'm losing every round these days. So I decided if I can’t get my kicks, I might as well get some pats, and cooperated. In order to stay in their good graces, I think up some new tricks now and then to make them laugh. After they had taken seven ticks off me in less than a week, Daddy found out that 1/4 cup of buttermilk daily, taken internally, is supposed to keep them away. "And how do you get that 1/4 cup inside the dog?" asked Mummy. Daddy shrugged. I had the answer: put it in my bowl, the faster the better. Now all I have to do is make sure the ticks stay away so that I keep getting the stuff.

My other new love is the shower. Not a shower, the shower. After my walk it takes me three leaps to land in the shower (the one downstairs) I wait and wait and wait until slowpoke Mummy gets her dirty shoes off, coat hung up, and she suddenly realizes that I'm missing. If I'm dirty enough, she cooperates and turns it on. What she hadn’t grasped until today yet is that all I want is a drink of running water. I certainly don't want to get more than my feet wet. So we've compromised; if I'm not muddy, she holds me up to the faucet at the sink so that we don’t have to go through the toweling-off and-cleaning-up-the-floor bit.

You wouldn't believe how I can put Mum to work. Daddy pushed this machine around the yard last week, then another one that tore into the ground and pulled up tons of moss. Can you imagine how many wheelbarrows full of feathery moss that could be? He raked, she raked, he raked. Still, there's so much of that stuff lying around that I can bring in a whole houseful every time I go outside. She vacuums, he vacuums, she vacuums. And sweeps. And mops. The only problem is that I get brushed twice a day instead of once in the attempt to keep my silky coat (That "soft-coated" bit ain’t in my breed name for nothin') from matting. Pictures should be matted; not dogs, she says.

Love and Wheaten greetings (vertical jump, vertical kiss, ending at the top of your glasses),
Gráinne na Dun na nGall


11. April 2000: An e-mail from Grandpa

Thema: What? - A drop out? Datum: 11.04.0003:36:51 (MEZ) - Mitteleurop. Sommerzeit
From: (R Hoffman)

Dear Gráinne,
The course of growing up, like that of love, never runs smoothly. Your human cousins also sometimes find it difficult to agree on what are the real goals and values, even after their adolescent years. We hope that you and your parents can come to a common mind about such things. (...)

Slurp, slurp, or whatever passes for good wishes. And love to Dad and Mother.
Grandpa and Grandma.

13th April 2000: Dear Grandpa... - Gráinne answers

That's right; a drop out. Mum says that home school is better than being the class dummy. Here at home everybody tells me how bright I am and that motivates me to bigger and better achievements. This morning Mummy was home from school with a throat infection (I think she just wanted an excuse to drink a bottle of homemade elderberry juice with lemon juice and honey) and tried to keep me out of Frau Sievers' way. Mummy suggested that I go get my rope and bring it to her to play with. Before I had time to remember how dumb I am supposed to be, there I was back with my rope for a round of tugging. Rambo came over for half an hour at lunch time and I learned immediately that he is the alpha dog and I am better off in the bushes, letting him use my bed and toys. It kept me from being bitten and got me a cookie afterwards for being a good hostess. Mum told me that she had had to go through the same process with a little girl from Australia named Bronwen Jeffries, so she's just passing on the training she got from Grandma.

I know the difference between come and come here, sit, heel, no, down, no biting, no pulling, go piddle, look in your dish (if we're in the kitchen) and my favorite: good girl. They say the next two lessons are stay and lie. I'm great at routine: when Daddy gets up from the breakfast table I take up position at the front door. It really gets my goat when he sneaks out the back door. After our nap is walk time, except today when Daddy wasn’t home, Mummy in bed and it was raining cats and border collies anyway.

One of the advantages of home school is that I don’t have to compete with dogs that stare at their owner, waiting for him to breathe. You see, I'm smart enough to decide for myself when to aspirate. Another is that I don’t get so hyper with one or two dogs during social studies lessons as with a dozen. Mummy says I won't often meet more than two at a time in real life anyway. Thirdly, I can learn at my own rate of speed, in terrier gear. Everybody loves me and says what a bright girl I am; my antics are enjoyed and I'm not being pressed into a mold. Mummy loves me, Daddy loves me, Frau Sievers loves me, the neighbors love me. What more could I want? (Except maybe a dozen dogs to play with.) As long as I get my buttermilk, bananas and Red Delicious apples, preferably peeled so that I don’t have to do it myself. They can keep the carrots.

The other day I lost the first of my baby canine teeth and dribbled blood all over. All the front teeth are in now. Mummy pulled two of them for me. My crooked lower ones are straightening out a bit - hope I can escape getting braces. Teeth are my most important feature, you know. I use them to greet people, steal things and wreck shoes, play tug-of-war...

My daddy has one vegi bed spaded, too, and I have a big hole in it. What luxury, digging in that soft soil. He keeps the door to the greenhouse closed. Do you think he's keeping my next present a secret in there? We have forsythia, daffies and hyacinths that Mummy wont let me eat. The wisteria, which has the first buds in its five years, is too high for me to reach.

Yet. I can steal things off the table already!

I can’t wait to meet you. By then I should be able to show you the official Wheaten greeting. Up 'n at 'em! Tomorrow is the last day of school, to be celebrated with a ball at the ballroom dancing school in the evening if Mummy's cold is better. Then I’ll have them at home for two weeks except when I go to Uncle Gerd's over Easter. My folks say they will have time to do some serious work on riding in the car with my seat belt, staying and lying. Uuh-oh.

Slurps and nips and hugs around the leg. I'll bet I can reach Grandma's tummy already!

With love from Mummy and Daddy, too.

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