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Comment: Top dog awards goes to...Oscar
It has been the year of embracing new things. I’m presenting a radio programme now, which is like being on television but with less make-up.
I’ve taken up running and survived the Moor Park Fun Run without any traumatic medical emergencies.
And perhaps most profoundly of all, we are now a family with a dog.
A while ago, I did mention that a dog was on the way, but back then it seemed like an abstract concept, like saying to a vague friend that “we must go out for a drink sometimes” and both of you knowing that it probably wouldn’t happen.
The dog always seemed like a really nice idea, but something I couldn’t quite visualise.
But now there’s no problem visualising him. He’s here, alive and real and, well let’s say it, sweet.
Cute. Endearing. All the things I thought dogs weren’t.
I grew up a cat person. As a young boy I spent a great deal of time in the company of a loyal, beautiful and irascible cat named Cleopatra who often seemed the smartest member of our family.
She was an expert at expressing disdain in the smallest of gestures and would walk out of the room whenever someone came in who she didn’t like. Which was rather a lot of the time.
She loved me, of course. I think she spent her life assuming I was her pet and she was the boss.
Perhaps all cats think that, deep down, which is why they so often engender an aloofness and self-confidence. Cats, let’s be clear, are cool.
And then there’s dogs. Our dog. He likes to bound around and play and be with you.
And he’s friendly and already very lovable, but what I didn’t know is that he also has some of those attributes I always adored in a cat.
He will sit on your lap, curl up and go to sleep. Nobody ever told me dogs did that.
And he also has the ability to be very calm and calming, which is another thing I hadn’t anticipated from a dog.
I’d always thought dogs were all hyperactive and a bit slobbery.
Probably some are, but ours – he’s called Oscar – is a lovely blend of energy and affection, but with some basic manners drummed in.
He’s a miniature Schnauzer, a breed of dog renowned for being good with children.
So far, he’s lived up to that billing – my boys have pushed him, pulled him, lifted him, run with him and tickled him, and Oscar’s just gone with the flow.
Mind you, he’s only ten weeks old so he’s still probably bewildered by what’s going on.
How is it, by the way, that a human at the age of ten weeks can do basically nothing, but a dog of the same age can walk, bark, chase, eat, drink, jump, think, learn, and basically live a pretty, co-ordinated normal life?
If humans have done such a great job of evolution, why do our brains take six months to work out how to move, while a baby cow is up and about in no time?
It might have been easier if he had sat around for a while.
The other surprising aspect of owning a dog is the amount of time and effort you have to put in while not taking the fella out for a walk or changing his water or – well, you can imagine the other time-consuming element of having a young puppy.
It’s the administration that takes you aback. The micro-chipping, the registration, the form for the Kennel Club, which appears to be a bit like the AA for dogs.
There’s the information overload that happens when you first go to the vet and they start telling you about diet, vaccinations, inoculations, worms, fleas and 100 other things.
Crates! I promise you I’d never heard the word crate in connection with an animal that wasn’t on its way to the slaughterhouse.
Think of crate, and you think of veal. But no, you have to buy a crate for your dog, which turns out to be a cage you put in the back of the car.
I’m assuming this is a bit of marketing come into play here. The thing that now sits in the back of our car is, by any standards, a cage.
But I guess they discovered dog-owners don’t like to think of their beloved animal being locked up in a cage, so they had to come up with a different word. And da-dah – crate sprang to mind.
They cost pretty serious money, but then again the whole dog world is more costly than I thought it would be.
You have to buy your pet to start with, then buy him a bed, and bedding, that crate, the mandatory collection of squeezy toys (almost all of which he ignores), vet bills, pet insurance . . . the list goes on.
There’s his food. You can’t just buy a tin of processed meat in jelly and put it in a bowl, it would seem.
No, no – we have bags of stuff called dry food, but needs to have water added to it. But not too much. It shouldn’t be wet food, after all.
There are the rules about how to train your puppy to do what you want.
We’re not talking hardcore jump-over-fences-and-balance a-ball-on-your-head training here but rather could-you-not-eat-the-shoes-please training. As well as trying to control what happens just after he’s eaten all that food.
Actually, he doesn’t try to eat all the shoes. My wife owns a pair of rather natty clogs Oscar has decided are the greatest and most comfortable objects in the world.
Rarely has anyone been so devoted to anything as he is to those clogs.
He likes nothing better than rolling over and sleeping on them. Forget a pillow, forget a crate, forget even the blankets with bones on them that he’s supposed to sleep on – if you can’t see the dog, just look under the stairs and he’ll be there, curled up on the clogs.
He is, in short, a delight. A surprising delight. I didn’t think I’d be so smitten with a dog after a childhood with cats and an adulthood without pets. But he’s lovely.
Welcome aboard Oscar and dogs – I’m sorry I was so dismissive about all of you for the past few decades. But I get it now.
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