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San Antonio's day brings terror

By Jo Green - Thu 20th Jan 2011

Last week the kids at school were being taught about pets as a prelude to St Anthony’s day (dia San Antonio), which is essentially a day dedicated to animals and where many of the Spanish will take their pets (sometimes including Goats, Donkeys and Horses) to church to have them blessed.

(Oh, the irony – A Spanish farmer taking his pet Podenco to church one day and starving it for the other 364 days of the year.)

Anyway, my daughter is especially fond of our pet dog, Lenny, who happens to be a strapping 92lb Rhodesian ridgeback, standing about 60cms high, and is particularly effective as a guard dog. To put thing into context he weighs just 22 lbs less than me. The breed was specifically bred by South African farmers to antagonise the Lions they hunted to make it easier for them to make the kill. My other half insisted that we called him Lenny – after Lenny “The Guvnor” McLean, the bare knuckle fighter; you get the picture...

The teacher collared me at the school gate on the Friday to say how my daughter had been talking endlessly about our dog, and asked me to bring him with me to school on the Monday to introduce him to the rest of the class. Other kids were bringing their pets in as well, so she obviously didn’t want to be left out.

So, with a heavy heart, and knowing full well that a playground was no place for a trained Lion killer weighing almost as much as myself, I agreed to bring him along.

Now, the dog is gentle giant – ever since our daughter was born she has bullied him relentlessly, jumped on his head, pulled his tail and shoved her fingers in his eyes and he doesn’t so much as raise as eyebrow. He is relaxed and happy around kids of all ages (obviously we never leave him alone with them for any amount of time). He is also totally indifferent to other dogs of all shapes and sizes. Cats, however, are a different matter altogether. They send him mental.

So when I pulled up outside the school to park the car I first scanned the area for cat cages. The coast was clear, so I felt safe in getting the beast out of the back of the car. My 35lb daughter felt the need to hold the beast’s lead as we walked across the road and the school gate, the crowds parting for us like Moses and the red sea. Most of the other parents kept their distance as my daughter dragged the teacher across to meet Lenny – she expressed that she was shocked that he was a little bigger than she expected, but seemed to relax as she demonstrated his demeanour by strangling him and twisting his ear into amusing shapes.

Ironically, as most of the parents backed away, the kids were not quite as shy and followed my daughters lead in victimising the dog.

And then it happened. A late comer brought along some kind of terrier, I’m not sure of the exact breed, but it was one of those types of dogs that camp men carry around in their handbags. It was fussy and jumpy and yelpy and terrified the living daylights out of Lenny. He’s just not used to how to react to a ‘Dog’ (as I understand they are called) of that size and so did what any self-respecting Lion-Killer would do and howled.

I was prepared for having to grovel to the other parents and teaching staff for my dog’s bad behaviour, but the shame of having a beast like Lenny howling in terror at a scrap of a dog as other parents laughed caught me completely off guard. How I am going to hold my head up in the playground again I just don’t know.

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