The Mating of Alice [1980]

THE MATING OF ALICE

Some men are born to breed Boxers – some become Boxer breeders and some have Boxer breeding thrust upon them.

It was thrust upon me when our Boxer, Alice, the scourge of the tennis-balls, attained her second heat, and my wife Claire Anne (or Sir as she is known to her inmates) announced that she must be mated. Alice, that is.

We are by now accustomed in our house to Sir’s canine monologues and have found that the best thing is to let the fever run its course, and so we wished Alice good luck, waved her off to her nuptials and returned to’ Dallas’.

Alice’s intended was a haughty brindle whom I shall call Ali, which is a good name for a Boxer. His owner I shall call Angelo Dundee. For all his airs and graces, however, Ali had never actually – not even with a stray. Imagine his excitement on seeing Alice, sleek and gorgeous. With one bound he was at her side. She felt his hot breath etc; so she bit him.

REPENTANT

Over tea afterwards Angelo and Sir consoled each other with the fact that both animals were new to this kind of thing and would doubtless get the hang of it tomorrow night.

The following night Alice was repentant. She gambolled with Ali, she nibbled his ear, she did all sorts of nameless things to him and got nothing at all. Ali once bitten was twice shy, and generally as romantically inclined as a fish on a slab. More tea. Drastic measures were called for. But what? It was Alex Gordon, hurriedly consulted, who suggested Mrs Langan. (You know Alex, him of the cat-like prowl who actually polishes his dog in the ring).

BOXER QUEEN

But who is this Mrs Langan? I hear you cry. Shush child, someone may hear you – for Mrs Langan is the Boxer Queen. She lives away to hell in Meath or Louth or somewhere like that with lots of cows and things in it. And there she breeds Champions. Alice’s father Same, was one of her dogs. She would surely know what to do.

FLYING PAP

At this point Sir fell ill and summoned me to her bed of pain. I was instructed to take Alice and Ali to Mrs Langan for their honeymoon.

Now I didn’t think too much of this idea. For a start, what I don’t know about dogs could fill a library. I am by the way, the proprietor of the famed ‘Flying Pap of Kilkenny’. (That was a couple of years ago, I don’t know if you were there). I was under strict orders from Sir to obey all judges instructions to the letter. So, when the Toy Group Judge told me to run our minute Papillon ‘quite briskly’ around the ring I launched my full fifteen stone in a mad sprint, the unfortunate animal flying behind me like a flag, although I think it bounced once or twice. (We were unplaced)

Furthermore I am basically a very shy man, and the prospect of presiding over the ghastly rituals of Boxer breeding in concert with a woman to whom I have never been introduced did not appeal.

REAL WORK

I am known to be a mild man, but beneath this timid veneer is a will of cold steel. No one, not even Sir, can get this boy to do that which he finds distasteful.

And so it was that I found myself one winter’s morning, driving through the frosty countryside with two disinterested Boxers grunting sourly at each other in the back.

Mrs Langan, at least proved less intimidating than feared, a hearty patrician in Wellingtons. It was the work of a moment for her to throw me and the happy couple into a cavernous barn and block the doorway with a car. Then the real work began.

I studied the whole event very carefully, and here set down the main points for your guidance, should you ever unfortunately find yourself in the same position.

First, having barricaded the door, one must foster a sense of happy excitement in the dog. This is done by prancing about in Wellington boots uttering glad cries of encouragement. It will also be necessary to convince him that the bitch has given up the practise of devouring her suitors, and to do this one must lift him bodily on to her back while forcing her owner to hold her steady. If, however, the dog continues to hold a grudge, it may be useful to shake him into action with a bit of competition. The mere sight of another dog is often enough to re-awaken interest in even the most recalcitrant male (how often have we seen this at Christmas parties!) In our case the competition was Sam, Alice’s father, who was quickly found to suffer from Xelpmoc Supideo or reverse Oedipus Complex.

By the time we had prised Sam off Alice and hauled him howling from the barn, Ali had totally lost faith in womankind. Alice, he felt, was defiled, and so he took the only honourable course. Squirming under Mres Langan’s car – he fled.

Having upbraided me for my failure to fling myself full length beneath her car to prevent Ali’s escape, and having placed the recaptured fugitive in the car (from which, presently came a loud snoring) Mrs langan reviewed the position. As Ali was plainly determined to exclude Alice from his future plans, would we like her venerable Champion Gimcrack to oblige in one final fling of geriatric abandon? I agreed.

Gimcrack may be getting on in years, may have a multitude of grey whiskers on his muzzle, but he knows what it’s for. He’s been around. He was on his mettle as soon as he entered the trysting place. Without hesitation he sprang into action.

Here a word of warning – when engaging in these activities, wear slacks. I am told that there is a woman in Cork whose name was only kept from a pedigree by the intervention of a pair of black tights – things were not as drastic as this in Mrs langin’s barn, and as it took only a few thumps and roars to divert Gimcrack in Alice’s direction. Another few moments removing him from her head and re-applying him to her tail, and we had arrived at the moment of truth.

EXOTIC

At this point in the proceedings it is advisable for the owner of the bitch to hold her firmly in position, otherwise there is a danger that she may revolve several times to the extreme surprise and displeasure of the groom. Meanwhile the owner of the groom manipulated the animal into various exotic positions until the happy couple are facing away from each other. (How often have we seen this at Christmas parties as well).

ETIQUETTE

And so to the social aspects. As far as I know no authority has yet produced a manual on the conversational ploys suitable for use in such circumstances. During the twenty three minutes we faced each other across the backs of two copulating Boxers, Mrs Langan and I discussed the weather, theatre, judging standards and the comparative qualities of various brands of instant coffee. It may have not been the most intellectually stimulating conversation of my life, but it was perhaps the most challenging in terms of etiquette. I found Mrs Langan a most understanding lady, and should you ever need to converse in such circumstances, I recommend her highly. You could do no better.

TOO MUCH

All good gatherings must come to an end, however, and indeed twenty three minutes may have been too much of a good thing for Gimcrack, who had been moaning quietly since minute six. But the job was done, and it only remained for Mrs Langan to seize Alice by the hind legs, raise her from the ground and shake her vigorously, and it was time to go.

In the fullness of time Alice produced six puppies, one of which tried to commit suicide with the deep freeze – but that’s another story…