On the whole I am not a dog lover which is strange given that I grew up in a doggy household.
The first dog in my life was Rowan, an irish setter. The runt of the litter, she was plagued with constantly flaking eczema, fur like a threadbare sofa and a resulting inferiority complex when compared to her peers who would look perfectly at home lolloping around in a timotei advert. An unassuming dog slavishly devoted to my Dad she is fondly remembered for spectacular heroism when chasing away a near rabid Alsation which was trying to bite the five year old me. Despite being half its size she streaked out of nowhere like a copper coloured whirling dervish, leapt onto its back and clung on for dear life until shaken off halfway down the road by the yelping emasculated beast. There were also her heroic services to hamster-kind, waking my Dad one night from deep slumber with a wet nose and gently leading him, littlest Hobo style, to the front door where our hamster was trying to pull off its own version of The Great Escape, and on another occasion patiently defrosting a near frozen hamster in the warm crevice between haunch and belly after we had thoughtlessly decamped for a particularly cold weekend leaving the little chap without the benefit of any central heating.
Next came Kirsty, the neurotic border collie. Her obsessive behaviour ran the gamut from uncontrollable doggy pouncing and nose dobbing on any stray reflections from your glasses or jewellery (most inconvenient when driving) to the dubious activities she got up to with cushions when left on her own in the lounge. All I’m able to say is that when you came back into the room there would be a hairy cushion in the middle of the floor and an embarrassed looking dog slinking behind the sofa, so its fair to assume some sort of pleasurable rubbing had been taking place….
There was also a brief period when, due to ill health, I had to look after my Grandparent’s dog Ben. The dog was of unknown age although undeniably on his last legs given the stench he emmitted. I had to sleep with air freshener next to my bed for the occasions when the smell of rancid dog would actually wake me up. Forever after the smell of neutradol will make me dry heave in remembrance of Ben’s stomach churning odour which turned out to be the result of his elderly organs giving up the ghost one by one. Our time together was short, however the day before meeting his doggy maker he still managed to go out for a walk and waddle enthusiastically up to an alluring lady jack russell’s bottom which is not a bad way to spend your last day all things considered.
Then I met my husband to be and was tentatively introduced to his doggy mad family. Mum and Dad had six, Sister had nine, and Auntie had, count them, seventeen. I recall clearly the first time I met my future in-laws and their much adored pets. There was the obese white miniature poodle as wide as it was tall whose vast girth gathered such momentum when it scampered across the kitchen tiles in search of doggy treats that the only way it could stop was to skid sideways into the kitchen cabinets. Then there was the black poodle which snuck into the space beneath my future father in law's favourite reclining chair, staying there quietly entombed after the chair was returned to its original upright position. I interpreted this as some kind of canine suicide bid given that the dog would have been there for days had someone not noticed the tip of a forlorn black tail sticking out from underneath the chair. It may well have been out of sympathy for the gnarled yorkshire terrier with a broken jaw, lolling tongue and a dead eye. It kept its head on my knee, staring at me unblinking (well the dead eye anyway), a silent plea for release from the ongoing deterioration of its body parts almost audible to the human ear.
So why the subject of dogs? Have three guesses as to what my son has decided he wants for Christmas.... The list of reasons not to give in to his wish is endless, starting with the fact that we both work and I am mildly allergic, but there is a part of me that thinks back with fond nostalgia as to the pooches, flaws and all, which have been part of my life, so maybe one day....