A Cumbrian village is feared to be perilously close to all-out conflict following a terrier's angry accusation that a labrador is intruding "repeatedly and with clearly provocative intent" into disputed territory in front of the terrier's garden gate.
In the latest of a series of skirmishes, yesterday saw a cross-border dental exchange through the railings, with Nipper, 6, claiming that the labrador's "jaunty tail angle" compelled him to attempt an intercept.
"There is long-standing acceptance that the Gate Zone, whilst not strictly mine, is a crucial buffer territory," said Nipper, "Although Goofy claims to have gone astray whilst hiking there were clear signs that his incursion was for intelligence-gathering. I monitored him closely while he sniffed fenceposts within the Zone, and I had reason to fear that a urinary attempt at territorial acquisition was imminent."
The stand-off has a long history, dating from Nipper's arrival in the village and his immediate instigation of a total exclusion zone of one mile around his home. Dogs who already lived there were forced to assert their traditional right of occupancy, and prolonged negotiations were necessary to ensure all dogs had right of passage to the nearby park. A strip of land running past Nipper's garden was set aside for this purpose, but Nipper insists that the strip is restricted to the other side of the road, where there is no pavement.
A crossbreed livestock-worrier who preferred not to be named said that she had to cross the strip daily to get to her place of work. "Nipper's unilateral restriction of the strip to the other side of the road means I'm at risk of getting run over on my way to chase sheep. It's his way of trying to get me out of the village altogether."
Daphne, a Golden Retriever, accused Nipper of setting up ad hoc checkpoints throughout the village. "Every time I pass him he inspects my credentials and he is really aggressive about it. It's humiliating." Nipper admits that the inpections are conducted "with some force" but argues that as a small dog surrounded by large and powerful neighbours he has a right of "pro-active self-defence".
In a move widely regarded as a means of ramping up inter-canine tension, he has begun to claim that Goofy's affable exterior is a front and that his "dangerously long and waggy tail" amounts to a mass-destruction capability. Nipper cites legal advice suggesting that the waggy tail renders all agreements void and entitles him to leap the fence in a pre-emptive strike.
The anti-Nipper camp appears to be weakened by internal disagreement. Questioned by reporters, Goofy, in a clear attempt to avoid further escalation of the situation, would only comment "Hello, will you be my friends? I like biscuits." But a spokesman for the labrador later delivered a much more hard-line statement. "We have lived tolerantly, perhaps too complacently, with this fundamentalist presence within our community for far too long. It is time for a war on terrierism. We must adopt an altogether more muscular labradorism."
President Obama is said to be locked in telephone exchanges in which he is "strenuously urging" Nipper not to let slip "an historic opportunity to reactivate the peace process." However, the situation is deemed too volatile for him to send in Bo, his Secretary of State for Canine Affairs.