Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Dog Love.

Ten things I've learnt about dogs in seven days.

Britain is a nation of dog owners. We simply love them. I don't mind them, but I know Jack Russell about them because when I was growing up we had cats, a lizard called Gnasher, a mouse, and too many rabbits (that’s a whole other story) but we never had a dog. Not only have I never owned a dog, I’ve never been in the park with one, or fed one, or picked one up. So when my friend goes to New York for a week, leaving me in charge of her six-month old Miniature Schnauzer called Archie, I’m on a bit of a learning curve. A steep one. 

One: Stuff

There’s loads. Together with the little dog, my friend turns up with dog food, treats, bowls, brushes, toys, leads, a bed, a big cage and most ominously of all, ‘poo bags’. I know dogs poo - I live on a road near a common in south London, for God’s sake - but I’d rather not think about it. Someone once told me that when it's your own dog's poo it’s like dealing with your baby’s, but I’m sceptical, and anyway this isn’t my dog, let alone my baby. I’ll be coming back to the poo.

"Are you sure you're okay with this?" says my lovely friend, heading for the door as I stand with her dog in my arms.

"Yes," I say. "Just try me." 

Two: Clingy

The second thing I learn about puppies is that they're needy. I may have briefly felt that excited at the sight of someone coming back into a room after a ten minute absence, but if I was I can’t remember. It doesn’t matter how many times I leave and return to the kitchen each time the dog’s reaction is the same: orgasmic. At first this pleases me. After a while it wears me down. I have to sit for ten minutes to cuddle him down from his high. I begin to instruct family members to retrieve things for me. “You’ll have to go and make me a cup of coffee, I’m afraid,” I tell Husband in the morning. “And your own. I haven’t the time.”

Three: Nosh

I am instructed to keep Archie on strict rations: three meagre meals each day, consisting of dry balls which have been soaked in boiling water and left to stand for ten minutes. Consequently he is permanently half-starved. He becomes hysterical at the sound of food hitting the bowl. Making him wait a further ten minutes while his balls steep seems particularly cruel. For both of us.

He scoffs these meals down really fast. Aside from these he is allowed treats as rewards, for following instructions and… nothing. That’s it. Nothing else. No wonder he patrols the kitchen, hoovering up every morsel he can find, licking sticks in the garden, the dirty plates in the dishwasher, eating leaves and snails and slugs, with the very same tongue that licks my face. Eugh.

Dog days. 

Four: Walking the dog

"You don't have to walk him every day,” says my lovely friend, “he's only little.” For me, though, dogs and walking go together like sausage (dogs) and mash. If I should ever get one (and I’m thinking about it) the walking bit will be a big part of the attraction. I therefore embark on dog walking with gusto, taking Archie out as soon as I can.

I’m back in ten minutes. The whole thing is incredibly stressful. Neither I nor the dog know what we’re doing. The puppy is excited by everything. He whines the minute we leave the house, straining to get to the common at the end of the road. I daren’t let him off the lead. He wraps it round my legs and I nearly go arse over tit. He sniffs round trees in circles, getting us both tangled up.

On the common he flies at things: a leaf in the wind, a small child, a pram with a small child in it, and worst of all, other dogs. I don’t know where to look. It's dog eat dog out there. They sniff each other’s genitalia. And worse. Or better. Depending how you look at it. As it were. 

There appears to be some sort of sniffing hierarchy, which, since I am walking a puppy, I am at the bottom of. It turns out, having a man in possession of a Great Dane lick your puppy dog’s bum is a tad shaming. I am being vicariously felt up. In public.

Five: Poo

The first ones happen in the garden and I don’t notice for several hours. It's a hot day so the poo dries out, which is a blessing when I come to pick it up. On the common it’s another matter. Hot on the heels of the licking episode, Archie crouches over a rough piece of grass and excrement descends from his tiny arse like Mr Whippy ice cream from a nozzle, only with the colour and consistency of chicken pate, warm chicken pate. This brings me out in a cold sweat. When trying to pick it up using the ‘poo bag’ as a glove, while holding him on a tight leash, he pulls me over and I mistime the lunge, getting shit all over my upper hand. After this I put Archie in the dog house, but only metaphorically.

Six: Conversations

We only have them about the dog. Here’s one...

Me: “Are there only Miniature Schnauzers? Where are the actual ones? You never see full sized ones.

“Maybe there aren’t any,” says son.

“There must be,” I say. “Every dog is descended from a bigger one, in his lineage. That dog’s grandad is a wolf, if you look back far enough.”

“There is no way that dog is related to a wolf,” says son, as Archie crunches down on a snail.

“He is,” I say.

“In that case I am related to amoeba,” says son.

“You are,” I say.

Seven: The rules

We're the boss. We don't allow him upstairs. We make him eat after we do. We tell him off if he nips us, which he does when he’s excited. He goes to bed when we say. He sleeps in a cage. In short, we don't take no mess. His is literally a dog’s life.


Eight: Love

No one will ever love you like a dog does, and yet that love is transferable. All of a sudden this dog is my best friend. Just take a look at them there eyes. His love is intoxicating, addictive, brilliant. I have his undivided attention. He follows me everywhere. He lies on me. He licks me. He looks longingly at me. He rolls over when I command and loves it when I rub his tummy. It’s everything I ever wanted. The only problem is that I can’t leave him even for one sodding minute.

Nine: Lessons

In a nutshell I learn that “on a short leash” and “wolfing it down” have other meanings. Or maybe, I learn what they really mean. 

Love E x


P.S. And Ten: Caring for Archie wasn't so doggone bad but I think I’ll get a kitten. Cats are less hassle, and bright.

Bow wow wow - do you wanna kiss then?


  1. Great post on dog-sitting Elizabeth! I am now a seasoned dog owner. You might enjoy Gilbert's blog post from a while back when we acquired our latest canine..

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Thanks. Not seasoned. Three delightful boys, though, almost like the same thing. E x

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