The trouble with giving private lessons – especially to well-heeled housewives – is that they tend to cancel at short notice. This morning, for example, I received an email from this delightful lady telling me that she wanted to cancel all our lessons for October because her 93-year-old mother has taken sick. It’s a common situation when dealing the magnificent “Sandwich Generation” ladies who are not only caring for elderly parents, but for their own children and grandchildren as well (how they manage to fit in time for English lessons is a mystery to me, but hey I’m not complaining). Basically, although the pay is good and the conditions are great, there’s no job security at all. On the bright side, there is no shortage of eager new faces willing to take their place, thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations. A few weeks ago I was asked to meet up with a new student in a wealthy mountainside suburb. As you know, all of my students are fascinating to me, but some more than others, especially this lady. My first hint that she was something out of the ordinary was when she picked me up in a huge white Mercedes (extravagant even by Kobe standards). My next was when she introduced me to her constant companion, a fat little dachshund named Ralph with pink ribbons in his hair. And then, after the lesson, when she treated me to lunch in a French restaurant that has an actual Rodin in the courtyard? Okay, that’s when I realised that she and I were going to get along just fine. And so we do! I now take lessons at her splendid home every Saturday morning, spending 90 minutes listening to her brag in broken English about her latest pottery acquisitions (one of her hobbies is travelling around Japan collecting rare pieces) and being fed exquisite tea and sweets from Kyoto. I couldn’t be happier about this situation.
Unfortunately, the only problem is … Ralph. He hates my guts. He starts barking as soon as I approach the front door, angrily nips at my heels as I enter the home, and spends most of the lesson growling at me from under the table. His doting mistress tells me to ignore him, assures me that he’ll get used to me in time (it’s been two months already), and when it gets really bad she reluctantly locks him in another room, but the whole thing just unnerves me. What can I do to win Ralph’s affections? I would appreciate any advice that you have for me. (Bear in mind that he’s a dachshund, and therefore not too smart.)