If my dog were a child, I would be judged a particularly poor parent. Before the words ‘dog training’ form on your lips, I would just like to say, in terms of man hours, if not academic ability, I could have trained as both a doctor and a lawyer in the time I have spent in dog training classes and squealing like the most interesting person that you JUST have to run back to on the hill.
When the kids were young, I probably qualified as one of the strictest parents on the block. Wasn’t quite in the organic apricots rather than Smarties in the party bag camp but definitely in the ‘fizzy drinks are the devil’s spawn’ fun monitor brigade. Of course, I wouldn’t have bothered beating myself up with carrot sticks if I’d have known that all attempts at healthy eating would go to hell in a handcart when they were teenagers. The mums who were thrusting bags of Dunkin’ Donuts at their kids while I proffered oatcakes would clap their hands if they could see me now: wading ankle deep in sweet wrappers and crisp packets stuffed behind the sofa.
But somehow, the discipline that I managed for the kids, resolutely refusing to budge with my ‘Stop asking the same question and hoping for a different answer’ mantra, seemed to have been eroded by the time the dog arrived.
Here’s where it’s all gone wrong:
- Unlike the kids who would be packed off to bed at 7.30, the dog feels that it is her canine right to be part of every social event, weeding out the person who most hates dogs and making them jump with a judiciously placed snout (or sopping wet Schnauzer beard) at various intervals. The equivalent of me letting the children wander in and out of a dinner party with a pop gun.
- If we try to shut the dog in a different room, she barks and barks until all conversation centres around the dog’s terrible behaviour. I feel totally inadequate like I used to when mums gave me advice on how to make my son read (rather than hang upside down off the sofa fanning himself with Biff and Chip) or how to cure my daughter’s fussy eating (Ha! They didn’t know everything. She still hates sausages and gags on pear.)
- I never had a problem with the children eating poo. The dog hoovers up horse manure nuggets like a box of Thorntons.
- I did manage to teach the children not to wander off with strangers. Poppy, on the other hand, will happily trot home with you for the sniff of a sausage roll.
- The son eventually grew out of snatching Power Rangers, Hot Wheels and Scalextric cars. I have this warning for all dogwalkers on Reigate Hill…do not throw a ball with a squeak in it anywhere near us. We could single-handedly revive Candid Camera.
- There’s a fifty per cent chance of the kids leaving alone anything I’ve designated as a ‘Do not eat that’ zone. The dog can sit out a whole birthday lunch snoring in her basket, then waits till I go outside to wave people off, rattles into life and sucks back the leftover smoked salmon and cantuccini biscuits. Just glad the dexterity of her paws doesn’t yet lend itself to the wire on the champagne bottle.
- She doesn’t accept that ‘when I’ve finished this’ is a valid option. As she hasn’t yet learnt to scribble on walls in protest, she’s adopted the ‘hunt the shoe and slipper in the wet, muddy garden’ revenge tactic.
- She’s far better at hide ‘n’ seek than the children ever were. The sheer audacity of her hiding places – the white sofa, the furry throw on my bed – plus her ability not to giggle wildly when I’m calling her name and the stealth with which she creeps off when I’ve blinked makes her an Olympic H&S champion.
Here’s where it’s gone right:
She’s such a character, I couldn’t imagine life without her.
My new book, After The Lie, comes out this Friday 29 April. It’s an emotional story of love, loss and family secrets…with some lighthearted relief from a dog called Mabel…based on you know who! You can order it here for the bargain price of 99p: http://amzn.to/1ST8uWC