When I began looking for a Saint Bernard pup back at the end of March I realised I had a problem. I applied to go on a waiting list with two breeders who had advertised they had litters due soon, but neither breeder got back to me. I imagine their waiting list was so big I didn’t stand a chance of getting one of their pups. I contacted Ann, Aslan’s breeder, to ask if she knew of anyone who had a litter of pups due which I might contact. Ann replied that she had a litter due in April. She wasn’t advertising this because she had a waiting list of 35 people, but because Ann knew, I’d give one of her pups a very happy forever home she offered to put me way up the list. I jumped at the offer. Aslan’s beautiful personality and calm attitude to life wasn’t a fluke – Ann breeds for those qualities and I was confident that any pup bought from Ann would be a great pet.
In early April Ann contacted me to say a littler of six had been born. There were four girls and two boys. I was promised a boy and Ann would send progress photos so I could choose which boy I wanted. As the weeks passed and the puppy photos just got cuter and cuter, I set my heart on the boy with the little spot in the middle of his head. Ann told me this is called a monk’s cap in Saint Bernards. I enlisted my youngest granddaughter, Molly’s, help in naming the pup. We made a list of possible names and together we chose Marlowe. I had been reading about the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe recently and thought his surname would make a great dog’s name – Molly agreed.
The drive home was uneventful. Marlowe travelled well and was happy to share our company on the four and a half hour trip home. Once home we were greeted by Cleo who, upon seeing the little fluff ball gave us a “how could you?” look and walked away. This came as a bit of a surprise. Cleo has always loved puppies and taken them to her heart as soon as she’s had a chance to rub noses. Not this time. Cleo clearly felt she was now too old for puppy nonsense and resisted Marlowe’s efforts to win her over. Thankfully, as time went on, Cleo became fond of Marlowe and was content to doze in the sun with Marlowe curled up beside her.
Like Cleo and Aslan, I’d decided to take weekly photos of Marlowe’s growth. Unlike Aslan, Marlowe is an energetic, playful puppy (Aslan was always quiet and laid back) who doesn’t sit or stand still for selfies. Getting Graeme, Marlowe and me in the same place once a week to pictorially record his increasing size proved difficult, and like many second or third children, there aren’t as many photos of Marlowe as there are of Cleo and Aslan as puppies.
When the time came for Marlowe to have his booster vaccination, we drove him and Cleo to the vets’. Cleo always enjoys a car ride and we didn’t want her seeing Marlowe off on a jaunt with her left behind. Sharing the back of the car with Marlowe was a bit fraught for poor Cleo. Marlowe wasn’t yet sure if he liked car rides or not and constantly demanded Cleo’s attention to reassure him this wasn’t the end of the world. Cleo put up with Marlowe’s antics and did her best to enjoy the ride despite him.
I had to carry Marlowe into the vets’ because he wasn’t fully vaccinated yet. Cleo and Graeme waited in the car. I opened the door to the surgery with my little bundle of fluff in my arms and saw that there were two vet nurses, the receptionist and two clients in the waiting room. As I walked in all five people said, “Awww,” at the same time. Marlowe, who was glad he was out of the car and up close and personal to me barely paid attention to everyone. I sat in a chair with Marlowe on my lap and he noticed the receptionist working away on her computer. Marlowe became engrossed on her and wouldn’t take his eyes off her. She must have looked up from time to time because she finally said, “Marlowe, I can’t work with you looking at me like that.” As soon as he heard his name, Marlowe’s back end started wagging on my lap. The receptionist came around the counter and asked if she could have a cuddle. I handed Marlowe over, sure that it was fine with him. Marlowe loves cuddles and doesn’t care who is giving them to him. The receptionist then asked if she could take Marlowe out the back to show “those who weren’t lucky enough to see Marlowe when he arrived”. I said yes and she disappeared for quite a while. I’m sure Marlowe was holding the inaugural Marlowe Appreciation Club meeting, many of whose members were in the Aslan Appreciation Club.
When Marlowe was returned, he and the receptionist were best friends. He sat on my lap until it was our turn to see the vet and wagged his tail every time the receptionist looked up. They must have bonded while out the back.
Cleo’s patience was tried sorely during Marlowe’s difficult Terrible Two’s months. He still had his baby teeth and they both annoyed him and were very sharp. I bought him a range of chew toys, but Marlowe’s favourite chew toy was Cleo. Cleo ended up having to visit the vet because she’d broken out in bare, itchy patches of skin. Clay, our vet this time, thought they were hot spots, caused my Marlowe’s teeth breaking Cleo’s skin and then bugs getting into the area. Clay said unfortunately Marlowe was likely to chew on Cleo until his adult teeth started to come in at around the age of six months. I was glad Cleo wasn’t proficient in English or she might have left home after that piece of news. Of course, we stopped Marlowe chewing on Cleo whenever we saw him with her ear or paw in his mouth. Cleo was no help at all. She wouldn’t bark or grumble about being a large, hairy chew toy for the pup and would simply put up with it unless Marlowe caused her a significant amount of pain. I was forever telling Cleo to tell him off, but the most Cleo did was give us an imploring look to detach the puppy please. Marlowe is now five months old, and has mostly stopped gnawing on Cleo. We still find him with his teeth attached to Cleo from time to time, but the frequency we find him doing so is getting fewer and fewer.
Marlowe loves to accompany me on my rounds to tend to the outside members of the menagerie. As you might expect, this can sometimes be a bit fraught. When I now clean out the fishpond pump I have to keep a careful eye on exactly where Marlowe is. Even with my ever-vigilant checks, Marlowe has managed to fall into the fishpond twice! The fishpond is not that big, and Marlowe managed to fill most of the available space. What the fish think of these four hairy legs, attached to huge puppy feet, I don’t know, but I’m sure they are against such invasions. Marlowe panicked the first time he took an unplanned dip in the pond, which made getting him out that much worse. We both ended up soaked and Marlowe vowed to give the pond a wide birth after that. Of course when the next time came to clean the pump Marlowe had forgotten the trauma of falling in and once again ended up in the pond. This time it was only his front feet, but they proved almost as wet and difficult to extract as the entire puppy did. Cleo, who also likes to accompany me on my rounds, just rolled her eyes and reminded me that this puppy was all my idea.I gave Cleo and Marlowe a treat each in different parts of the kitchen. Marlowe picked up his treat and placed it between Cleo's front legs. They then both settled down to enjoying their own treats.
The galahs have declared war on Marlowe. When I enter their aviary I do my best to exclude Marlowe, but the gate is a bit tricky to completely close from the inside. Marlowe takes full advantage of this. The first time he ventured into their cage he was just an interested tourist, checking out the new sights. Hedwig and Hermes suspected he was up to no good and immediately went on the offensive, spreading their wings and screeching at the top of their voices. Marlowe, who was surprised to see this bad tempered display tried to explain that he was just looking while I dragged him out by the collar. Since then he’s only managed to get a foot or two into the aviary but the galahs are ready for him and voice their opinion on this ever-enlarging dog invading their home.
I allowed Marlowe to come into the chook pen with me from the first day he arrived home. I hoped that by being familiar with the inhabitants of the chook yard Marlowe would be less inclined to dispatch any chook that managed to escape while he was out and about. The first couple of weeks went well. Marlowe acknowledged the chooks’ presence and was content to wander around the yard, introducing himself. Unfortunately, he discovered a wonderful game and has now been banned from entering the yard. Marlowe discovered that he could sneak up on an unsuspecting hen, grab her tail in his mouth and then just hold on. As soon as the hen realised she was caught she’d start clucking madly, flapping her wings and trying to break free. Marlowe didn’t think there was a better game in the world that this. The hen had a very different opinion. I went to the chook’s rescue, told Marlowe a firm NO! and resumed my feeding and egg collecting. Marlowe wondered if the same reaction was to be found by grabbing another hen by the tail. Joy oh joy it was! As I said earlier, Marlowe is now banned from entering the chook pen. He still accompanies me to the chook yard, but has resigned himself to remaining outside and just remembering the fun of grabbing a chook’s tail.
Marlowe is now five months old. All the above took place during the first two months after he arrived home with us. He is now a beloved member of my menagerie. Marlowe is a bit of a scamp and is always full of beans and mischief. Cleo, who is an elderly lady these days, has come to love him, and they spend their days together lying in the sun or snuggled together out of the rain on their beds. One of the vets who was a big Aslan fan, told Marlowe he had big shoes to fill. I told her there would never be another Aslan, but also I’m sure there will never be another Marlowe – he is making his own place in the world and is confident that he will be loved by all. I think he’s right.