Sean Moncrieff: After a bit of a traumatic day, we made a shocking discovery
Herself's tears did briefly attract the attention of the friendly Garda at the lockdown checkpoint
The day was desperately cold, and the date for Puppy to get the final in a series of inoculations. Photograph: iStock
After a bit of a traumatic day, we made a shocking discovery.
That day was desperately cold, and the date for Puppy to get the final in a series of inoculations. After this day, Puppy would be able to go for walks outside the garden and take her place in the doggy world. Puppy, Herself and Daughter Number Four set off in the car, the dog ensconced in a mobile doggy-crate. Puppy had been in this crate before with no complaint. But on this occasion, Puppy didn’t like it. There was a lot of whining and chewing.
Herself was minutes away from the vet’s when she first noticed that her eyes were streaming; and suddenly the car was filled with a thick odour cloud of skin-peeling, foetid horror.
Indulging her gift for pointing out the obvious, Daughter Number Four was screaming “Mammy the smell!”
Perhaps Puppy ate something disagreeable, or was distressed by the journey or was mounting her own dirty protest. We’ll never know the reason why she opted to power-hose the inside of her doggy-crate with a frighteningly impressive volume of liquid poop.
Gagging, Herself searched for a place to park.
She is the MacGyver of wet wipes. She extracted the dog and cleaned up as best she could; only for Puppy to drop another dirty bomb: all over her lap, her coat, the car seat and that crinkly bit at the bottom of the gear stick that’s difficult to clean at the best of times.
The car was now ground zero of a faecal abomination.
We have to adjust to a change that isn’t really a change at all
In fairness, Puppy wasn’t too thrilled about this turn of events either. But some fresh air calmed everyone sufficiently to proceed to the vet’s office. The injection went ahead without incident, though afterwards it did leave the problem of how to return home. The car smelled like a diabolical explosion at a sewage works, so Herself – coatless and dry-retching - had no option but to drive with the windows down.
Daughter Number Four was now crying “Mammy the cold!”
Her tears did briefly attract the attention of the friendly Garda at the lockdown checkpoint. He leaned in to say hello, only to suddenly stagger back, hands clasped to his face.
Later that day, when everything was cleaned up and stomachs settled, Herself idly looked at the paperwork she had been given, and noticed something curious: the vet had marked the puppy as male. The paperwork that had come when puppy first arrived had said female.
So, we checked. “She” is a boy.
I know, how could you not know what gender the dog was? Because we never looked. Because we don’t say: well, we’ve watched everything on Netflix. Let’s look at the dog’s genitals for a while.
We’re not that kind of people.
We were both put out by this discovery; though not entirely sure why. It seemed to add to the trauma of the day. Herself admitted to disappointment. She’d liked Puppy being a girl.
Having spent more than a month training ourselves to refer to Puppy as She and say “good girl”, now we have to do the reverse. We had invested the dog with female-ness, while the dog – in as far as a dog can be aware of such things – was busy being a boy.
It’s not really a big deal; just slightly disconcerting. We have to adjust to a change that isn’t really a change at all. It was us who were looking at a puppy through the prism of the wrong gender.
It’s far more of a big deal in the human world, where arguments over gender identification have become nasty and seemingly insoluble; perhaps all too easily forgetting what Puppy demonstrated: that he’s been the same dog all the time. The switch of gender doesn’t affect his essential dogginess. When people switch gender – to the one they feel they truly are - they are still the same people. We are humans before we are pronouns.