Crackers! #3: Patrick Lenton

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Welcome to our very merry, end-of-year series, Crackers!

We’ve asked eight of our favourite writers to tell us about the best gift that 2015 gave them/the world, and we’ll be posting their responses all the way through to New Year’s Eve. Today’s cracker comes from Patrick Lenton. Happy reading.


If you can imagine the squat, muscular barrel-body of a Staffy, the huge, limpid eyes of a Chihuahua, and the head of an Alsatian—but tiny, all about the size of an anxious toaster—then you’re on your way to imagining Ginny. Picture her sitting on the bed, her pert ears tracking the world for sounds, any sounds, to get angry about. Envision the tiny, vibrating body trotting down the corridor and angrily prominent asshole, ready to let everyone know they’re doing the wrong thing. Imagine all this and you’re close to understanding our angry, baby girl, Ginny (Virginia) Woof.

Ginny clearly had problems

Adopted this year to be a companion dog for our anxious baby boy, Ernest, Ginny clearly had problems. When we drove out to meet her and see if she got along with our current dog, she ran around us snarling and squinting suspiciously if we moved too fast. But for some reason we filled out the adoption forms and brought her into our home and hearts – though the hearts took a while. After the first night of an angry-eyed, growling, snapping creature that scared the shit out of our little Ernest, I said, “I think we made a mistake.” My partner and I looked at the adoption forms, wondering if there were a cash-back guarantee or a return policy where we could get twenty per cent off a nicer dog. It turned out we could take her back in the first thirty days, and it would be fine, it would be great. We looked uneasily at each other. We kind of wanted her to go to the lighthouse. We wanted her to have a room of her own, and not in our house.

We knew almost nothing about her except that she’d lived in a lot of foster homes. Her underside was criss-crossed with faint scars, one of her back legs damaged in some way so that she never puts her weight on it and hops along. She hates: men, manly voices, men with beards, men who move, bicycles, thunder, children, children on bicycles, cars, joggers, other dogs, our other dog, birds, rain on her window.

Her ears sometimes lie back on her head, and her angry butthole unclenches, and she looks calm and happy.

But the thought of un-adopting her, of just putting her back into a system where she’d be locked in a cage and eventually killed made us sick, made us feel like bad people, so we decided to persevere. We discovered that along with the quivering rage, there was also a sweet dog who began to shyly beg for our attention, to sit alongside you with her head turned away, so she couldn’t see all the things she hated. I could understand that. So we did training, and paid money for fancy dog psychologists, and they all helped in small ways – “She’s an anxious, crazy dog,” they said, “Here are many drugs for her.” Now, her ears sometimes lie back on her head, and her angry butthole unclenches, and she looks calm and happy, and she only attacks our friends a little bit, and we love her and she’s perfect. Perfectly batshit insane, but perfect. We are no longer afraid of Virginia Woof.


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Patrick Lenton is the author of A Man Made Entirely of Bats and tweets about dogs @patricklenton.