As a child I never had a dog. In fact the only pet we had for years was a sadly neglected rabbit. His neglect was probably the reason we weren’t allowed further animals. Any promises we made about taking a dog for a walk would have been brushed off with the accusatory reminder of how infrequently we cleaned out Snowy’s hutch.
My brother Nigel managed to keep some mice for a while, but they had to be relegated to the great outdoors because their smell was enticing their country cousins to come indoors and join them.
The boys also had stick insects, the very memory of which gives me nightmares. He kept them in a glass tank which appeared to be fairly airtight. However, when the many many many babies appeared, they were so small they managed to get out. We discovered them all over the house. When one intrepid explorer found its way into my bed, it was time for them all to go.
Our cousins had a dog named Peter. He was a cocker spaniel with perpetually daggy ears from flopping in his food. I suspect Uncle John took over the chore of exercising Peter fairly soon on, which didn’t help our cause.
We did eventually get a cat though, which came as a big surprise as we had always been told Dad didn’t like cats much and was allergic to them anyway. I know he did have problems with his nose. I remember a time when he went into hospital to have some polyps removed. And he always had a much-used hanky in his pocket.
Shortly before I left home, my mother employed a cleaning lady who turned out to be a bit of a charity case. But what she lacked in grey matter she made up for in kindness. Her eyesight wasn’t very good, so she never noticed any dirt or dust, but she’d always offer to make anyone a nice cup of tea at any time. She had two topics of conversation; one was the washing.
‘Nice day for drying,’ she’d say. Or more commonly in England, ‘Not a good day for the washing today.’ And that was it.
The second subject was her cat Minna.
‘Minna ate all her food today.’ Said as if that was unusual, but it was the same thing every day. ‘I gave her some nice fish. She miouwed and miouwed.’
But sad to say, the time came when this lady needed to be taken into Care. She was quite happy to go herself, but she was worried sick about Minna. So Mum said we’d take her.
She hadn’t been with us long before I heard Dad standing at the front door one evening calling ‘Minna Minna ,Minna’ in a sing-songy sort of voice. And shortly after that he was observed walking down the hallway cradling the cat in his arms as if she were a baby. And not so much as a single sneeze was heard.
So to compensate for my canine-less childhood, I have had a succession of dogs all through my adult life, at first for the children, although probably, if I’m honest, really for me.
(beautiful blonde dog on loan from my daughter)