Saturday, 23 April 2011

Mini rant no.1: Who walks who?

Daily walk, trailing behind Mungo's behind and pause to think who exactly is walking who? And am I walking with him for his or my benefit? And why is it (nearly) always me and not the rest of the family, each of whom had two perfectly functioning legs the last time I looked, and all of whom promised the breeder who vetted us, before we brought this big, but loveable brute into our home, that they would walk the dog.

Yes, you didn't read wrong, she vetted us! We had to make an appointment en famille to meet the breeder and her dogs at her house, so that she could interview us and decide whether we were fit to have one of her precious puppies and then we had to pay £500 for the privilege of having passed. Now, maybe this is normal practice for responsible breeders, but imagine if the national health care system vetted prospective parents before telling them whether or not they could go forth and procreate - will you take the child for walks every day; microchip it; feed it only expensive and healthy dry food and water; lock it up in a cage every night where it will feel secure; worm it regularly; play with it; abide by the law and hang an id tag round its neck whenever it is out in public; take it to obedience classes; insure it in case it causes an accident; and agree not to breed from said child without registering with the human equivalent of the kennel club first? - could solve a lot of the country's social problems! But thankfully history would make us shy away from eugenics on such a scale. Also, if the male of the couple in question can nod in agreement to all the dog breeder's questions, sound enthusiastic and fail to acknowledge that he doesn't really like dogs, then what is to stop him doing the same when quizzed about having children - in both scenarios the same person ends up with all the work; same old, same old, eh?

Which brings me back to WTD - why? Is WTD for his or my benefit? I do wonder sometimes why anyone gets a dog? Lots of reasons spring to mind and I remember spouting them to the breeder and five heads nodding with varying levels of enthusiasm as I did so: he would be good company for the kids, especially the one who had been chronically ill for four years and cruelly had everything he had previously enjoyed removed from his life; he would be good for my fitness (laugh out loud at this point); we could bond as a family going on long weekend walks (laugh again but sadly); all the places we frequent for holidays are dog friendly; and loads of our friends have dogs. Add to these reasons the constant pestering for a pet; the fact that our cat was run over a year before; our naivety and the fact that none of our friends with dogs mentioned the drudgery, the mess, the teeth that bite (hard) and we were sunk.

So who is walking whom? Clearly he's walking me - all over me in more ways than one judging by the muddy paw prints coursing up my jeans and onto my shirt. When the children were babies and positing little mouthfuls of sticky goo everywhere it was somehow acceptable to walk around with a white stain on your shoulder; people understood and asked after the baby. But very different and not at all acceptable is the vague awareness of impending embarrassment and a perpetual thinking of "What!" as people snigger behind your back and no-one actually says anything all morning leaving you jiggling around awkwardly checking yourself until you eventually find the smudged muddy brown stain on your bottom and you remember the dog, fresh in from the garden, jumping up when you took him to his run.

But before you think I'm an old (yes) curmudgeon (no!) let me put the record straight - Mungo frequently makes my heart melt. He very obviously thinks he's mine - or probably that I am his. The warm body that keeps my feet warm when I am working at the kitchen table, the child-like friend who keeps me company in the garden and helps with the digging and un-helps with the weeding, and the oh-so-faithful eyes that speak so tangibly of trust, especially when he was ill recently and making numerous scary trips to the vet, confirm that he is mine and I his and most of the time I wouldn't be without him.

To return to my point: breeders, by all means go on vetting families that wish to adopt your puppies, but please, when you ask if everyone will play their part in walking and caring for the dog, look the father of the family in the eye and only believe those brave and honest men who dare to say no. Otherwise turn your attention to the mother and if she doesn't say wholeheartedly that she will be chief walker, feeder, and poop-scooper, tell them you will be in touch later and gently show them the door. It's kinder for womankind that way.

Thursday, 21 April 2011


Why "Stories and musings on life while walking the dog?" And what does that say about me?

Firstly, I have a dog! He's a he; big, black lab, to be precise; not blessed with much brain, but classically handsome, and nearly two (which means he still thinks he's a puppy); loveable sometimes and sometimes most definitely not; "brother" to my younger kids (their term, not mine); eats for England - anything (except onions and asparagus) and everything (including wellies, shoes and any toys he can get his teeth into); and called Mungo (after the patron saint of Glasgow).

Secondly, me - some clues in the paragraph above, but what that doesn't say is who I am, or indeed what I am. The who will for the time being remain obscure, but as for the what - parent to several children, dog owner, Scot now living in England - yes, to all of the above, but also very part-time professional (as part-time as I can get away with); sometime gardener; best provider of hugs in the world, owing,  I am reliably informed by my youngest, to my squashiness round the middle; and writer.

How loaded that last word is for me. Writer. I have spent my life writing stories, mostly inside my head, and when my children came along I told them stories (I still do sometimes). The writing that goes on inside my head could be called dreaming and perhaps that is what anyone who observes me distractedly trailing Mungo across the fields thinks I am doing. When all that is moving are my feet and my thumbs it is probably not obvious that I am actually multitasking and that with the advent of clever phones (I realise that actually happened several years ago, but I have never been very quick to catch up with technology) I have found a time when I can physically write my ideas down and with some considerable help from eldest child, I can now embark upon sharing them. I just need to find the time to do so.

So that's me. The blogs which follow below will be a mixed hedgerow of stories; ideas; rants; the occasional poem;  and comments on life - look at the titles and please read what you will.