Nothing makes you reassess your life choices quite like attempting to brush out burrs from the extended lugs of a reluctant cocker spaniel. As a child, I thought sticky willy was hilarious and magical. Now I am a dog owner I know it to be the devil incarnate.
The Royal Horticultural Society, who would sniffily rather call it Cleavers or Goosegrass, advise that each plant can produce up to 400 hairy seeds and that they can lie dormant in the ground for up to six years.
I suspect it might be longer in our living room rug.
The most virtuous gardeners will argue there’s no such thing as a weed. It’s just a name for a plant that’s in the wrong place.
Brodie’s golden curly locks are most definitely the wrong place and it’s coming out.
The trade for this inconvenience will be biscuits.
For the dog that is. I’ll settle for a wee lie down.
Our dog will endure most things for food, including the ritual humiliation of being asked to twirl before getting them.
Oh how he makes us laugh. Hearty and sore. What did we do before he entered our lives?
The answer of course is “spontaneous things”.
The one major difference we’ve noticed in our lives since becoming owners of a dog is the need to plan.
We can no longer go out for dinner at the last minute or go away for the weekend.
Unless the dog is coming too of course and let’s just say the success rate of bringing him along to dining establishments as guest number three has been “mixed.”
Yeah spontaneity’s good, but did you ever love a dog?
It’s hardly the greatest sacrifice and yet what we’ve lost in spontaneity, we’ve gained many many times over in unconditional love.
I’m repeatedly mesmerised by his ability to communicate with us without words.
And this goes far beyond his most rudimentary needs. I swear this dog can laugh and express his mood.
There are duvet days when his persona is just a touch glum and he can sense it in others too.
There’s nothing kinder or sweeter than watching him sidle up to a friend who is down.
He’ll launch his body weight against their side and rest a paw on their knee. It’s canine for a hug and “it’ll be alright pal”.
— Kezia Dugdale (@kezdugdale) March 4, 2020
The Pet Food Manufacturers Association reports there are 3.2million new pet owners in the United Kingdom since the start of lockdown last March.
It’s an increase so substantial they admit they have struggled to keep up with the demand for food (aye – tell us about it!)
They also say 75% of those new owners report that their own mental health has substantially improved in that time.
A big part of that is of course the company and the mutual chemical reaction of a tummy rub, but I think it’s also down to the structure a dog provides.
Seasons seen through the eyes of a dog
No matter what else is going on, you have to get up to feed them.
A dog has to be walked come rain or come shine.
They get us outside and I for one have a far greater appreciation for nature as a consequence.
We do the exact same walk in our local woods at least three or four times a week.
I now see the seasons clearly, the landscape changing with it. As one species of plant turns over, new life begins to rise behind it.
I appreciate the dappled light and the rustle of the bushes, watching our boy differentiate between the wind and the prospect of rabbits or squirrels.
During peak lockdown, I took great joy in watching him frantically circle the foot of a tree, tracing the scent whilst his grey squirrel friends pirouetted and danced through the branches above to safety.
I actively encouraged this game for a while until I met another women in the park who told me one of her boys had his nose split open by a particularly vicious grey.
We focus on chasing bunnies now.
Lockdown pets not all so lucky
Sadly, 5% of those new pet owners have reportedly given up their animals already.
It was just too much for some of them: the responsibility and the routine.
That amounts to broadly 160,000 pets without homes. And it serves to emphasis just how big a commitment it is to be an owner – and how great the pressure is on supporting charities to safely re-home unwanted animals.
I worry about how much larger that number might become in the months ahead, especially as they can’t all come and live with me.
But as we face a world with so little to cheer for at the moment, I couldn’t be more grateful for my canine friend.
May his world, and all those like him, always be full of soft toys and toast crusts.
The burrs, however, can do one.