I caught an item on the radio the other day when the two presenters expressed surprise that dogs outnumber cats among the UK pet population and you are more likely to find a dog, rather than a cat, is any given household. (PFMA Pet Population Survey 2015)
Presumably it is because media presenters are the sort of people who keep cats themselves and assume that everyone else is just like them. Goodness knows why. A more selfish and self-obsessed creature you wouldn’t wish to meet. And the cats are no better.
As you probably guessed, I fall very much in the dog camp when it comes to pets. That is no surprise since I grew up with dogs around the house. A year or so before I was born, my mum’s first baby was stillborn. Unsurprisingly, this sent her into a depression, but this was in the days before counselling and medication for our moods and the family doctor recommended getting a dog instead
For some reason, mum chose a rather large Alsatian as a baby substitute. That’s Lady on the right guarding me in my pram and she could be a fierce minder as anyone who got too close found out. Including my dad who found her a bit of a handful, so much so that he had no option but to take her to obedience classes to get her under some sort of control.
Thus he started what was to become a life-long association with the world of dogs. He became well-known as a trainer and a judge at shows across the country. He was also made chairman and then president of the Northern Alsatian Training Society and was largely responsible for the thriving club it is today. And, of course, we had a succession of Alsatians to share our home, so having dogs around feels natural to me.
Up to my self-imposed absence, we have had three dogs: Larry, the Alsatian who came we me as part of the package when me and Mrs P first became a couple; Bingo the stray who I liberated from a police cell; and Jack, the overgrown Jack Russell we took on as a two year old from the local dogs’ home.
After a shaky start, Jack became the perfect family dog – loyal, brave and affectionate in equal measure. And he converted to the terrier as a pet because for all their bolshieness and independence, they are larger than life characters you cannot help but love.
Jack was with us for fourteen years and though he had a long and happy life, we were all devastated when he died last year. It came not long after my dad’s illness when he moved in to sheltered accommodation. Residents are allowed to keep dogs in their flats, but not large dogs like Jo, dad’s powerful border collie, and we ended up taking him on as our fourth dog.
On reflection, this was a mistake. Like all his breed, Jo was totally focused on ‘the boss’, but he was used to being with just one person. Moving in with family completely threw him, especially as his new bosses wouldn’t stay together in one place. His behaviour became more and more erratic, especially with Master P, and he would often be aggressive. Despite everything we did (up to and including consulting a dog psychologist) and I had to have him put down earlier this year.
I felt that I had let down both Jo and my dad, but I really didn’t have another option (re-homing had failed) and for the first time in many years, there was no dog about the house. It was odd, as if the house was suddenly empty, which brings me to the point of this post – to introduce Dottie, the newest member of the parrot household.
That is her at the top of the page and on the right as a puppy. She is a Jack Russell crossed with a Parson’s Jack Russell and is showing many of the terrier characteristics of our previous dog, even if she isn’t quite as big as he was.
And like my dad before me, I’ve been taking her to our local dog club, even if the best you can hope for from a terrier is that they behave themselves when you’re out and come back when you ask them to. As my dad advised me: ‘If you want a dog to train for obedience, you’ll have to get a different one’.
But we love her.