Sunday, 17 July 2016

Learning to live with terriers

Ratty and Badger, in our old camper

Ratty is the little dog on the left; we adopted him from a shelter in Carcassonne in January 2014.  

When I saw this notice on the Carcassonne SPA (Société Protectrice des Animaux) website on January 25th, I knew we'd take him - we went that same day - but no way were we going to call him Piglet.  He was so small that he had been boarded with the cats.  When asked there what we would call him, all I could think of was Ratty (in French, he's a ratier, a rat-hunter).

He had been abandoned and, from the way he reacted to us the first few weeks and to others for several months, it was obvious that he had been mistreated.  Eventually, he learned to trust us completely and then not to fear visitors.  Now, he snuggles up to trusted friends and barks in outrage when they leave.

We were told in Spain that he was a "Ratonero Bodiguero Andaluz", translated roughly as an Andalusian wine-cellar rat-hunter.  As far as we know, he hasn't yet met any rats, but he does chase anything that moves...

A few weeks later, friends with a springer spaniel came for dinner.  Ratty was ecstatic and they ran and played together until both dropped, exhausted.  When Tim suggested that Ratty needed a companion, we went to see a couple who had bred their female Jack Russell with a friend's Jack Russell and now had 5 male puppies.  Badger was the runt of the litter but, at the age of 3 weeks, was already eating solid food.  We were asked to take him two weeks later, when the first-time mother refused to nurse her pups any longer.

Badger at 3 weeks (the lower two hands aren't mine - they belong to a rugby player!)

Holding Badger on my lap for the first time:

At 5 weeks, wearing one of my socks.  He still shivers with cold, lies in the hot southern French sun in summer and as close as he can to the wood stove in winter.

We wanted a French name for him.  The custom here is to name dogs according to the year of their birth; born in 2014, his should have begun with the letter J, but I couldn't find a name I liked, so we called him Copain (Pal in English), as he was meant to be Ratty's buddy.  After a week, we knew it didn't fit him and, seeing how feisty he was, we called him Badger, with only the slightest tip of the hat to The Wind in the Willows.

Getting acquainted:

At first, Ratty only tolerated Badger who, having been removed too early from his mother and four brothers - and seeking warmth - snuggled up to his new companion:

Badger at 5 months, with muddy nose (he is a terrier and there are lots of moles in our garden):

At 5 months, he could still fit next to Tim in the armchair, sort of...

Badger didn't stay a runt for long; he's now 9 kilos of solid muscle, while Ratty is a wiry 6 kg.  Don't be deceived by their innocent looks in the photo at the top...

Photo by Wilf Noordermeer

but there are still lots of sweet, peaceful moments:

Walking on the Serre, just above Oupia, April 2015.  They're much calmer at the end of a walk...

Photo by Wilf Noordermeer

More to come - and it won't all be about Ratty and Badger.  I'll catch you up on what we've been doing as well, in irregular postings; if you'd like to receive notifications of new postings or make comments, please see below.