The 17 Blatant Signs Your Dog Is “A Princess”

Thanks to a wealth of great holiday destination suggestions from you, the old man and I are off to Hawaii next week. However, while it has been almost impossible to contain his feverish excitement at the prospect of two weeks of intense shopping days in Honolulu, bumpy, guided tours with complete strangers, and our first hula dance at the hotel Luau, we do share one major concern about our time away.

We have to leave our baby behind.

With neither the boat, money, nor influence of Johnny Depp – and the reputation of the US for being quite scary when it comes to illegal immigration – we are leaving the “Princess’ in the hands of a dog-sitter.

Three cute dogs sitting on their beds.
Our dog’s part-time role is as a highly-efficient doorbell.

Many of you know, our “Princess” is no ordinary dog.

Spoilt, pampered, and bordering on anxious are words that come to mind when I think about our gorgeous four-legged friend, while others have gone as far to suggest that her problematic attachment disorder has turned her into a bit of a bitch. Nevertheless, she remains the love of our lives.

Clearly, her biggest problem is that she doesn’t actually identify as a dog.

Like her mother, she sees herself as an independent woman of a certain age, who will no longer suffer fools gladly – in particular those of the weaker sex – and who finally knows what she wants out of the last chapter of her life, i.e. everything her own way.

Which is why I thought it prudent to prepare a short list of tips for the lucky young man who will be in her charge:

  1. She doesn’t eat breakfast. Whilst she eats her breakfast on occasion, she is much more likely to sniff at the dog biscuits in her bowl in disgust and then death-stare you until you give her a treat or your own breakfast.
  2. She has a part-time job as a door bell. If someone so much as breathes in the street, she becomes the Rottweiler she was born to be – although, she has also been known to sleep through several break-in attempts.
  3. Her favourite snacks are toast and Scotch fingers (preferably dunked in Lady Grey tea at a perfect 50 degrees). Once again, she will death-stare you if you partake of either of these without sharing.
  4. As a result of her advancing years, long walks are starting to lose their appeal. If she senses that a trek is on the cards, i.e. further than 2kms, ignore her tugs on the lead at your own peril and be aware that any blatant abuse of her trust and freedom may trigger a depressive episode.
  5. Maintaining a body like hers requires a trough of cool, spring water, changed twice a day.
  6. Her bowel habits are erratic, but she hasn’t lost her humour when it comes to the sheer delight she experiences from spacing out her poos on walks. One log here, and another a few metres further along the street – more often than not in the middle of our grumpy neighbour’s lawn. And she really loves this game when you are low on bags.
  7. Her two favourite meals are roast chicken and veggies, (as in roast potatoes, nothing green), and Spaghetti Bolognese. She has excellent table manners and has appropriated the living room rug as her personal napkin.
  8. Her preference in terms of sleeping arrangements is to sleep in the bed with us, in the foetal position, fur to skin, heartbeat to heartbeat. She does kick intermittently through the night to let you know she is still breathing.
  9. She does not tolerate other dogs, apart from fellow Spoodles. Any dog that gets too close to her rear end is dealt with appropriately. Interestingly, she is not quite as circumspect about her own butt-hole inspections.
  10. She is fluent in three languages, and is currently learning French as a result of her parents’ obsession with SBS. Her favourite genre of television is Scandi Noir, and this is also her intended specialist subject for Mastermind.
  11. Her perfect evening is to cuddle up on the sofa under her favourite blankie with Netflix and a glass of wine.
  12. She does not go outside in the rain, and she has been known in inclement weather to hold on from one season to the next.
  13. She has a ball obsession – indeed, her knowledge of the names of different types of ball takes up at least 50% of her vocabulary. Be warned: she will jump off a cliff for a ball.
  14. Like most middle-aged women, she has a low tolerance for idiots, doesn’t give too many fucks – although, plumbers are the exception to the rule – and she has been known to suffer from the odd mood swing or ten. Her weekly visit to her therapist, or her brother’s bedroom – where she is known to enjoy a sniff of his illegal substances – usually sorts this out.
  15. Common triggers include children, long walks, men, tradesmen, the vet, baths, the groomer, medication, suitcases, and Boris (the Maltese at no. 34).
  16. She is a homebody who does not cope well with transitions. She does a very credible impression of a dead dog attached to a lead when she is manipulated into doing something she doesn’t want to do.
  17. Vomit triggers: the car, dog food, homemade treats, green vegetables, transitions, long walks, being left alone, strangers…

Anyone else have a “Princess” for a dog?

The Curious Incident Of The Dog With The Pooey Ass

The Princess Spoodle’s birthday didn’t start well today. While the old man was out playing tennis, she had one of those unfortunate incidents of a sticky dingleberry stuck to her nether regions – a mortifying turn of events to a dog of her breeding with associated sensitivities. It’s one of those situations that any parent of a longhaired breed will understand, and in retrospect, completely my fault for procrastinating about booking her in at the salon for a groom. Dingleberry removal is one of those chores that no one wants to deal with.


Not The Princess, obvs, because I couldn’t possibly publicly shame her in such a way.

Over-excited about her big day, the three of us remained blissfully unaware of her condition this morning until she dragged her bottom across my bed and left a massive skid mark across my clean sheets – evidence of what an irresponsible parent I am. And I have never seen Kurt or NC disappear as quickly.


The problem with pets is that you can’t blackmail them or make them understand that they’re supposed to know what to do in the toileting department. And although they are your child, their poo doesn’t hold the same magic power as that of your newborn’s, for instance, when you exult in the magnificence of every part of what you’ve created, even when they squirt one in your face.


Somewhat inevitably, the first thought that crossed my mind as I retched the first time was why the fuck the old man is never here in those few minutes of the week when we actually need him. These  include:


Emptying the bin and recycling

Putting out the bins for collection day

Removal of any living thing that belongs to the animal kingdom yet is not human

Mowing the lawn

Washing up


In other words, for all the really fought-after tasks that involve muck in the house – so getting shit off the dog’s ass definitely falls into his camp of responsibilities.


Which left me with two options: To wait for his return and in the meantime lock the Princess in a cupboard where she could do minimal damage – a suggestion that my vegetarian daughter decided was animal cruelty – or clean the offending ass myself.


So I gagged, checked the time and realized that the old man wouldn’t be back for a couple of hours, and then I gagged again as I carried Shitty Ass at arm’s length to the bathroom, questioning why I ever thought having a pet was a good idea.


‘Bet you thought you were done with cleaning dirty bottoms,’ Kurt said on our way to the bathroom – an attempt to inject some humor into the heinous task.


‘Ha ha!’ I agreed, not cruel enough to remind him of the last time he was drunk with gastro.


It was only as I dropped placed the Princess gently into the bath that we saw the cockroach in its last throes of death waiting for us near the plughole, and Kurt, (who had been pretending to be my assistant up until this time, without actually venturing anywhere close to the dog’s asshole), leapt into the air with a squeal, backed himself into a corner of the bathroom, and rocked there for the next ten minutes.


It’s going to be an interesting negotiation when he and his future wife divide up the domestic chores.


And I recognized my situation for what it was. This was a test, to prove that I am indeed what I pertain to be – equal to man – to see if I really can cope with over-sized insects that scuttle noisily and threateningly to disempower women, as well as shitty, matted bottoms with the potential of a weapon of mass destruction.


I think the Princess quite enjoyed her time in the cupboard. Hide and seek is her new favorite game. The groomer is booked for Friday.

A (Sort of) Birth Story For Easter

I’ve been caught up in between worlds these last few weeks – the worlds of back pain, Easter chocolate and that of my characters, as I put my final touches to my manuscript. I’m not the best multi-tasker, so I find it difficult to tackle other writing projects when I’m so invested in these four people that are evolving daily.


But as the Easter holiday period wraps up, I know I owe you something – however trivial. So as this event marks a rebirth, I decided to mark my respects with the story of the birth of our third child. b15d2295e5b6a03d15d9ccd5ca0d13ef


I’d never had a dog as a child, although an assortment of pets – mad cats, fish and a tortoise that ran away, weren’t fit enough to survive in our house – which is why I always suspected that a dog might be one step too far in terms of responsibility. Added to which, I was highly anxious about them. I was that person who gagged when a friend’s dog jumped up at me – and they always did because they smelled the fear.


Two things changed my view. One was that the old man has always been an animal freak – far more relaxed in the company of dogs than our children – and as I watched his interactions with friends’ dogs over the years, and saw how they calmed him and diminished his stress levels, the idea became more appealing. The second reason was that I thought a pet, another being to love Kurt unconditionally and perhaps become his best friend, would help him feel better about himself.


The conception of The Princess was a long and arduous one. I did my research, changed my diet, took iron pills and went through other invasive medical interventions I still can’t talk about. And I’ll admit that at one point I began to waver in my decision…until my brother paid us a surprise visit in Sydney.


“Impulsivity” has a tendency to run through our family – rather like a sharp razor through the winter hair on my legs – so perhaps I shouldn’t have been that surprised when I mentioned the idea of the dog and he dragged me straight to the closest pet shop to pick NC and Kurt’s new sister – a female of the ‘oodle variety; the cutest and sleepiest.


I don’t think the old man ever believed I’d actually commit to the dog idea and so he was fairly indifferent to The Princess for those first few weeks. Obviously, she wasn’t the stereotype of what he considered to be “man’s best friend”, and I know he worried about turning up at the dog park on Saturday afternoons, beer in one hand and this blonde ball of fluff in the other, tethered to a shocking-pink lead. Yet she wormed her way into the rest of the family’s affections within minutes – the cute stack down the steps living room probably helped – and within days we were fighting over who would pick up her perfect, pint-sized poos – the ones that usually landed with stealth bomber accuracy on my brand new rugs.


She is has since reigned at the top of the pecking order, and each of us fight for her love and approval. She is the best spooner, the best hot water bottle in winter, the best therapist, vacuum cleaner and incentive for exercise. She is also great to dress up. Our main criteria for holidays homes now is that they are pet-friendly, and she drives shotgun all the way.


Training…not so much, although she will sit or lie down if we make it worth her while.


At the grand age of eight – which is fifty-six in dog years – and still spritely, she is often mistaken for a puppy (much to her disgust) – even though she is developing into a willful, middle-aged woman who gets crabby when she’s tired, is easily distracted, forgetful and rather partial to long naps with her dad most afternoons. So we have a lot in common. She tells us now when she’s had enough – a good lesson for Kurt, whose switch off button has always been temperamental.


And did I mention the best part about having a dog? It’s that they can talk. Over time, this lovable little mutt has developed a voice in our house, which is used (and abused), to say those things that we want to say to each other, but know we shouldn’t.

Marking Your Territory In Middle Age

The Princess is in the proverbial doghouse this week, due to an over-exaggerated limp that sent us into a state of panic, then suddenly disappeared at the vet.

Marking Our Territory In Middle Age
Photo courtesy of The Princess and one Greenie.

Incredibly, she still manages to fit in at least fifteen wees during her new, reduced walks that were advised by the vet.

Karma. Just sayin.

Why do dogs feel the need to mark their territory so often?

Apparently it’s to do with marking their dominance or to ease their anxiety – the latter in the case of the Princess, I suspect.

It’s not so hard to understand. We humans like to mark out our territory as well, if that can be defined as feeling accepted or fitting in. Perhaps the more direct, in-your-face approach of dogs, might not go down too well at the school gates or in a new job, but isn’t one of the purposes of life to leave our mark, whether we do it through our careers, our kids or our actions of philanthropy?

In terms of marking his territory socially, the old man has always claimed that he doesn’t need friends (or a wife for that matter) and after thirty years together, I tend to believe him. He has always been a Grinch when it comes to socializing, and it is only with some belated maturity and an increase in his whisky consumption that he has finally accepted his fate of being married to a try-hard socialite and the need to compromise.

It does pain me to know that he would be happier in an isolated world of golf on tv (and just about every other sport ever to grace the Foxtel sports package – ice-skating excluded), ready-made meals and a studio apartment.

He has a very different idea to me about what he judges as ‘fitting in’. I remember when we first moved to a small village in England, fifteen or so years ago, how he lived for the moment our local publican would finally welcome him by his first name each time he walked into the pub.

We all secretly crave some recognition or some meaning to our existence.

After two years in our current suburb – having doubled their turnover, I imagine – the owner of our favourite Japanese restaurant now welcomes the old man by his first name, and my husband, upon whose face a smile is rarely raised, struggles to conceal the satisfaction that brings him.

He has marked his territory in this world via his avid consumption of raw fish.

One of the great things about getting older is that marking new territory becomes less important. That may be due to a greater inner confidence and wisdom, or the serenity created from realising that no-one is indeed ‘better’ than us, or because we have less energy to go to every party we’re invited to because of the physical effects of ageing, anyway.

There is something very smug about reaching that point in our lives.

It’s when we finally find the confidence to let go of people we don’t fully connect with; to turn down invitations we know we’ve been invited to, solely to boost numbers; to not beat ourselves up when friends disappoint us, and instead calmly walk away; and to not feel disempowered by the success of our peers.

For the truth is, the only territory worth marking, the only tree worth pissing against, is the small tree whose trunk contains the people we truly care about and who truly care about us, whose branches bloom more colourfully with each year and whose roots deepen with age.

Dogs: The Family Glue

Dogs: The Family Glue
Godard The Frangipani Eating Dog by Nicholas O’Donnell on

We celebrated our third child’s birthday a couple of days ago. The Princess Spoodle turned six – an event bigger than Australia Day in our household, and a double celebration because, in spite of the statistics, she hasn’t been got by a tick yet.

We could be accused of going over the top in the celebrations for our dog’s 6th birthday, but we are Brits by birth, so… whatever

Her gifts included a new fur-lined bed, because she decided that the last one looked a bit crap WITH stuffing, but that stuffing could be re-cycled and put to good use as a style feature when re-deposited around the apartment; a new Skunk toy to kill randomly every few minutes, because in spite of our teachings, we cannot get rid of certain of her more determined ‘dog’ features; and some VERY naughty foodie treats.

For her birthday dinner I cooked Spaghetti Bolognaise, or biscetti as she calls it, and because it was her birthday I made a concerted effort not to scream in anguish when she rolled around my cream carpet afterwards to get rid of her orange spaghetti beard.

This little dog is the epi-centre of our family’s emotional universe. She is the family glue.

Arguments are smoothed over more quickly with the Princess’s special powers. She is always there, ready to fill the cracks. Filling the cracks might involve exhausting Kurt’s angst with some rough and tumble, taking the old man out on a brisk walk or cuddling away NC’s boyfriend blues.

But she’s always there.

She regularly shares a bottle of Chardy with me, although she does point out the inherent dangers of wine before we finish the bottle.

Jokes, RSPCA…

She is the equivalent to the UN on our home battle field – a white flag of hope – and we all adore her far more than we like each other.

Strange really, because when we finally decided to acquire a dog all those years ago, after procrastinating for what others would describe as an eternity, and after a ridiculously exorbitant amount of research to find THE PERFECT BREED – as in, least likely to bark, bite or lay massive poo logs – we thought the kids would be too old to be interested.

Rather like they were after we’d spent two years income on a swimming pool.

But they adore the Princess and the Princess has adapted to their individual needs. It’s almost like she was made for us. So much so that she even shares our familial anxieties – she hates strangers, the phone ringing, loud noises and going out – although that also means she’s a bit of a spoiler on firework nights and wasn’t too excited about the 21 gun salute on Australia Day, either.

Anyway, I thought I’d share her birthday cake recipe with you, the success of which I can only put down to slaving for hours in hellish traffic on the highway to Chatswood in heavy rain, just so it was fresh for our precious third child.

Princess Cake


Go to Donut King.

Parenting Strategies For Your Dog

Cute Dog By Amaury Laparra at’ve had a complaint about the behaviour of the Princess from the building management company of Dysfunctionality Box.


The shame of it. Don’t they know who she is?


Apparently, when we were away she made some noise that resembled a bark each time a resident breathed within a radius of 5kms from the block and one of the old snooties that we’re surrounded by, (who obviously just doesn’t understand the deep-seated anxieties, protection instinct and attachment disorder of the Princess’s long line of royal canine stock, or has nothing better to do), wasn’t prepared to take a more sympathetic stance.


Sometimes the Princess likes to do impressions of her forefathers to keep her culture alive.


So much for pet-friendly!


God knows what the residents of Snooty Box will do once Kurt starts drumming. When he thought that 7.30am was an appropriate time to play the Red Hot Chilli Peppers this morning, I must have developed wings such was the speed with which I flew down the hall to tell him to shut the fuck up castigate his poor timing.


Although the building does accept dogs, it obviously does not understand the needs of a highly-strung dog and the time they need to  adapt to new environments. I’ve received some death-stares in the lift and I am certain that the Princess, being the sensitive soul that she is, must be picking on up the animosity lobbed in her direction. She’s certainly not herself. She even refused her afternoon coconut macaron today.


So I am trying to train her as I have trained the children.


Obviously if it was the children, I would simply threaten her with 24 hours time-out in the storage cage, but the Princess is too intelligent for such primitive parenting strategies.


So I have bought bags and bags of dog treats rewards that I have placed around the apartment and I shove one of them in her gob the minute she so much as opens her mouth to growl. I play Beyonce on Youtube to distract her when I go out, because Beyonce is her icon – that dog just loves to ‘put a ring on it’ – and I try to wear her out with regular ball-throwing Olympics at the local park.


But this little problem is turning me into a paranoid mess. Obviously, if this was Kurt, I’d have no compunction about finding him another, more suitable home. But this is the Princess. I put her in doggy daycare on Monday and she had to mix with common mutts! She was distraught when I collected her and only a pepperoni (no mushrooms) pizza from the take-out shop next door would calm US down. 

A pepperoni pizza.
A pepperoni pizza. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


It was the building manager who dobbed us in and I find it hard to disguise my disgust at his treachery, especially when I’ve dug out my best smile for him every morning at 7am en route to the Princess’s toileting duties.


I am re-thinking the bottle of red bribe I was going to surprise him with at Christmas.


It feels as though everyone in the building is out to get us, stab us in the back and have us evicted onto the streets. Even the building Jacuzzi doesn’t feel like a safe zone anymore and Kurt keeps threatening to wee in it in retaliation.


Any strategies worked with your dog?