Man’s best friend

I’m not what is commonly known as a dog person. I don’t do dogs. A four legged friend was just never part of the equation for my parents when they were raising six two legged loud mouthed individuals. And I’ve never really wondered what I was missing. Sure, I am overcome with cuteness when I see the Andrex puppy on my TV, running across a magnolia-coloured showhouse playing with the eponymous toilet roll, looking like he smells of marshmallows and barks like a nightingale… but my curiosity disappears when the next ad comes on or when I remember I have chocolate in the cupboard. Dogs feature firmly in my daydreams of a fantasy future located in Narnia where i am a perfect wonderwoman version of my flawed self,  having woken to find my legs have grown by 20cm; that fantasy had no risk of ever crossing the doors of the wardrobe. Until this summer.

This summer, through a series of circumstances that many could describe as “fate” but I would describe as “are you kidding?!?” and which qualify firmly as “things one does for love”, I spent 10 days with my other half looking after one of our furry canine friends. And not just any dog. The boldest dog in the northern hemisphere. I hear the southern hemisphere has a contender, but I also hear he’s half Tasmanian devil so it would not be a direct comparison, a bit like comparing apples with pineapples (I digress because that’s another story entirely and is just making me long for a smoothie)… The crux of the current story is my utter bewilderment at the relationship between dog and man. Minding that dog was like spending 10 days with a toddler going through the terrible twos, hooked to a an intravenous feed of sweets and fizzy drinks. Why would anyone put themselves through that without having given birth to it?

In the interest of preserving the privacy of my four legged torturer companion, I shall call him Lucifer. It suits him down to the ground. He is a medium sized, reddy-brown cheeky cocker spaniel with a permanent smile, a dog that is wired to the mains. Literally. I suspect he plugs himself into the nearest socket the minute humans have their backs turned, charging himself up like a Duracell bunny lurking in wait for the next unsuspecting visitor. He hears the key in the door and bolts from the plug, howling and yelping, into the legs of the new arrival. He shows his joy by doing laps of the house, using the garden as a runway, the armchairs as a trampoline, the windows as leverage for spectacular turns. He whines, begs for food, rolls all over carpets scratching himself, jumps up and sticks himself to the front door at any sign of a key or a chain being rattled, and joyfully ignores every single thing said by humans around him. “Sit” to him means “walk around with tongue hanging out whining dementedly”, “stay” means “follow me round with tongue hanging out whining dementedly”, “No” means “Please continue, and be more dedicated to the task and whine dementedly”. He howls to the death if left alone in any circumstance,  assaulting doors so hard he may once leave a dog-shaped hole in one and most importantly he never ever comes back if let off the lead unless tricked and bribed into it. He flexes his vocal cords at any other living creature he lays eyes on, with a preference for in-car performances where he directs surprisingly loud howls at cows in fields far far away and straight into the ear of the exasperated driver who narrowly avoids a crash.

Relaxing after a day of mischief

My car used to be a pretty little girly thing, with a colour coordinated cushion on the back seat.  It is now a toilet. A five-hour drive with Lucifer is like an episode of the X-factor. It contains action (no, you cannot come in the front, I’m DRIVING, stay in the back, no, you cannot come in the front, stay in the back, no….), drama (oh god he’s puked on his blanket. You said he wasn’t car sick! He ate WHAT before we left?!? Great…), suspense (any minute now, he’ll stop whining… any minute now…), hilarity (roll down the windows he’s farted again… you dirty dog you!), disbelief (stop hiiimmmmm he’s eating my underweaaaaaarrrrrrrrr!), more disbelief (I don’t believe it, he runs around on the beach for two hours but waits till he gets into the car to puke…), companionship (seriously Lucifer, sit back in the car a bit or have a Tic Tac, I’m dying here) and luuuurve (TWICE rolling in the excrement of another dog, most probably a female in heat is dedication to the art of loving in my opinion…). A ten-day holiday contains the same amount of action, to the power of ten.

On our return, having transferred Lucifer back to his permanent home and having taken ourselves off to bed to recover, I uttered the famous last words: “Well, I think we managed to avert any major disasters”. I was wrong. I opened my car door the next day to find it strangely odorous… there was a pee puddle on my back seat… a goodbye present by Lucifer, no doubt to thank me for my hospitality.  Did I cry? Faint? Have a panic attack and ringing my therapist for an urgent counselling session? No. The new dog-loving (or dog-weary) me just shrugged at the grim discovery, fully aware that it could have been so much worse… And I enjoyed a well deserved cup of tea.

From now on, I shall retain my 30 second custody of the Andrex puppy. All the cuteness, none of the hard work. Someone has to pick up that toilet roll you know!

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About monicaheck
Monica Heck is a bilingual freelance writer and journalist based in Dublin, Ireland.

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