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IT’S A DOG’S LIFE – FOR WHOM?

Max Cashback

We’re going to Florida on holiday next February – would you like to come? Question from son and family to parents

As date approaches, Dad is working so, sadly, holiday is off. Many thanks and regrets expressed to son. Result – would you like to have Charlie while we’re away? Not quite the holiday envisaged, still Charlie is a lovely, well trained Welsh Collie. Looking after a dog can’t be that difficult. Lots of people do it but, until this moment, never us. Charlie’s arrival is viewed with a mixture of trepidation and delight.

He duly arrives – I’m sure he wasn’t as big as this in their house. He’ll stay in the garden all day – just leave him, he’ll be fine. Will he though? He’s not used to busy roads, what if he gets out (despite locks and bolts.) Panic seizes me. He’s not a goldfish which can be replaced on their return. I fear, for the next three weeks, Charlie will rule my life.

Day 2 of Charlie’s holiday, I decide I can’t watch him all day and go into town, park the car only to return home10 minutes later terrified that he will have been spirited away or choked on a piece of grass! This is ridiculous, he’s a dog – does that accusing look in his eye as I left him mean he won’t love me any more? He takes me out for a walk on my return – it should be the other way round, but Charlie is a big strong dog and likes to run off the lead. If I let him off the lead I am convinced he will drown in the river or be in Cambridge, so I have three weeks of dislocated shoulders.

Day 4 and my confidence is growing, I’m off to work, Charlie will be fine and then he is sick. I phone all my friends with dogs – will he die, they laugh – I don’t. I phone the vet – make him drink lots of water – how? This dog-sitting is a nightmare. Charlie is fine, I think I’m the one who needs a vet, still husband will be home tonight so all will be easier, or will it?
Charlie totally ignores me, after all the love and affection I have given him, and becomes the besotted slave of the man of the house. Jealousy rears its ugly head. This man who hates shopping becomes a frequent visitor to pet supermarkets, returning with goodies to woo the new member of the family. Despite the fact he never walks normally, Charlie is taken for outings to local beauty spots. A bark in the night results in husband leaping out of bed to check he is OK – that never happened when the children cried – Charlie has taken over.
The family in Florida ring to make sure all is well, Charlie is bemused by their voices on the phone but doesn’t re-act – make him bark says my grandson, how says I, say ‘swimming’ says grandson. I do, Charlie barks – I now know I’ll never understand dogs.

The day before his departure, I leave Charlie in the garden, locked and bolted as usual. I return to an ecstatic welcome, Charlie I will miss you. I go in the house and find a note to say my windows have been cleaned. This wonderful guard dog has let a total stranger into the garden – not only that, he has put a ladder up to my windows. That is unimportant, but what if Charlie had got out? If that had happened the first day of his visit, I would have been marooned in the house for three weeks.

The final day approaches. Charlie and I will have our last tearful walk by the river. I approach him with the lead. He hides behind the car. I go one way, he goes the other. Surely, he can’t be more exhausted after the three weeks than I am. He is eventually bribed with a biscuit and reluctantly keeps me happy by taking me for another walk.

The house seemed empty without Charlie, would we have him again – yes. Would I have one myself – no, I don’t think so, my nerves won’t take it!

Nina Collier

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