I have realized that sometimes you can be far too nice. I am not sure whether it comes from the need to be liked or as a result of not having the backbone required to say a firm and decisive ‘No’ when required.
It was in this vein that we agreed to look after a friend’s dog for a week whilst they enjoyed freedom from canine responsibility in warmer climes.
We had never been committed pet owners because several members of our family had developed allergic reactions to all things fur covered. We had ‘owned’ a couple of carefully selected rabbits for a short while, until I had to perform the customary animal funeral in the front garden. But we were largely unskilled in animal care.
I decided that it would be useful in helping our girls to understand the work involved in having a dog. I also secretly hoped it would stave off the repeated requests for us to get a canine of our own.
The puppy that was entrusted to us was a lovely, if somewhat stupid, Labrador. It seemed skilled in only two things; running at walls for no apparent reason and barking at imaginary visitors whilst ignoring those that actually came to the door.
The pet owners arrived early on the agreed day with the puppy and enough dog luggage to make me feel a little uneasy. They announced that, whilst obeying the rigid feeding times, we had to ‘on no account allow Joey to eat anything’ other than the vet-prescribed concoction, manufactured to cure puppy illness. In what seemed to be an attempt at humour, they helpfully left a pooper scooper.
So here we were; in charge of a dog whose constitution was such that, if it consumed even the tiniest amount of wrong food, would return all that it had eaten; in stereo.
Nevertheless, the girls were excited so we took the pooch for a walk as soon as the owners had dashed away to their holiday, with smiling faces. Each daughter took it in turns to be dragged around the playing field whilst the dog chased butterflies.
Being inexperienced I wasn’t sure whether the dog would complete its ablutions automatically or if you had to tell it to do so. I knew it obeyed when I shouted ‘Sit!’ but didn’t feel brave enough to try other commands.
It seemed to take it a very long time to perform and, having forgotten to bring the doggy luggage, when it finally did produce an offering I had to employ the inside-out plastic carrier bag technique used only by dog owners.
We returned home and everyone but Joey seemed tired; I would have had a nap on my favourite chair but it was now occupied by the puppy practicing being a guard dog, barking at vehicles passing the house.
The next morning I arose to prepare for the day in my usual way; filling the kettle and watching the news on breakfast TV.
I entered the conservatory, having almost forgotten about our four-legged house guest, to be greeted by a smell that I can only describe as industrial in strength. I am not sure what Joey had consumed but the result was exactly as his owners had predicted.
The puppy was covered, as was the floor; in fact there didn’t seem to be anything in the room that wasn’t marked by the dogs output. As an instinctive reaction I reached for the pooper scooper but soon realised that it was designed for use with only healthy dogs.
I had never previously bathed an animal, and I don’t intend to do so ever again. Joey obviously thought it was a game and mistook my look of distaste for one of happiness, because it did all it could to make our cleaning time last longer.
I had just about finished cleaning the affected furniture when the girls came downstairs to be greeted by a beautifully clean animal. They were oblivious to the odd smell that still lingered as a reminder of my fun morning.
‘Can we get our own Dog’ said Mrs Molineaux’s eldest.
‘Please’ said the others in unison.
I have since apologized to my daughters for the miserable way I answered them that morning.