How Much Is That Bloggie In The Window?

Recently, Isaac has started asking if we can get a pet.

I have tried to argue that he is very much our family pet already (more so than a human child, in fact, since he prefers eating off the floor, has strange sleeping patterns, and leaves hair everywhere), but he is having none of it, and desperately wants us to add an actual animal to our family unit.

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While we have not yet made any firm decisions either way, there has been some debate between us as to what kind of animal we should get if we decide to cave in to his demands – and, as far as I am concerned, pet owners (in the UK at least), tend to fall into one of two main categories: dog lovers or cat lovers.

Of course, there are exceptions. Some people, who like their pets to be as dull and low maintenance as possible, keep fish. Others, who prefer something smaller, fluffier and more restrained than a cat or dog, focus solely on the rabbit/hamster/guinea pig section of the pet store (but this tends to be a habit most of us grow out of once we reach adulthood, and no longer crave things which are ‘cute’).

Then, finally, there are those people who are more than content to remain single for the rest of their lives, so they buy themselves a snake or tarantula. These people are not to be trusted under any circumstances, and should be regarded in much the same way as those who enjoy cricket, or have more than three children.

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Anyway, the majority of pet owners tend to be either ‘dog people’ or ‘cat people’, and whilst you may very well enjoy the company of both, you will always have a preference – meaning ownership is generally restricted to one or the other. This is partly because the two are very different animals, which suit vastly opposing lifestyles, but mainly it is due to the fact that, if we have learned anything from the cartoons, it is that cohabiting cats and dogs will invariably end up clawing the living shit out of each other (then, after each battle, the cat will walk away unscathed like nothing happened, while the dog will lie dazed on the floor with little birdies tweeting around his head).

Anyway, I already have two children, so I have no need for further violent skirmishes around the house, thank you very much, and that means any future pet ownership will need to be restricted to either a cat or a dog, not both. And, before we go any further, I will make one thing perfectly clear: I have always been a dog person.

Growing up, my Mum bought the family a little Yorkshire Terrier, a breed she had always been fond of, and, even though in hindsight he could be a right little twat at times (indeed, from recollection, his pedigree name might very well have been colossus bellendium, despite the fact that sounds like a spell from an adults-only version of Harry Potter), at the time we loved him dearly.

Then, once my wife and I were married, but prior to having children, we decided to test whether we could be responsible parents by getting a dog first, and having suffered a number of setbacks via a local rehousing charity (one couple changed their minds about giving up their dog, and another was sadly run over and killed before we could meet him), ‘Bexley’ entered our lives.

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In short, ‘Becks’ (as he was originally named) was a mongrel of questionable parentage, but there was definitely a mix of Labrador and Retriever swimming around his DNA, and once we had decided to change his name to ‘Bexley’ (on account of the fact the family having to re-home him – due to emigrating – all turned up at our house wearing Manchester United shirts, and I flatly refused to have a dog named after the then United star, David Beckham), he quickly became a cherished member of our family.

He was energetic, friendly and adorably clumsy in equal measure, and everyone who met him instantly loved him. It broke my heart the day he was put to sleep, and I do not mind admitting I sobbed like a little child holding him in my arms at the vets that day. I’m filling up even now just recalling how horrible it was to say goodbye, despite it being a few years ago, but he had a good life with us and lived to the ripe old age of sixteen, which is good going for a dog of his size.

So, despite being attacked by an Alsatian when I was younger, I have always been firmly entrenched in the ‘dog’ camp, and this is for four very good reasons:

  1. Dogs are (generally) lovable, loyal, and fun to have around, and they are always pleased to see you. Cats, on the other hand, spend most of their time scratching viciously, and literally don’t give a shit about you or anything you do. They aren’t even grateful when you feed them (compared to dogs, who wag their adorable little tails to show their appreciation), and, if you don’t tend to their every whim promptly enough, they simply fuck off and live with someone else. Cats have no loyalty whatsoever.
  2. I despise losing stuff that I have paid for, so I could never own a cat knowing the chances are it would be likely to disappear at any given moment (if the local Facebook posts are anything to go by, a cat goes missing in Sandbach every fourteen seconds). I’m pissed off enough when we lose the TV remote, so imagine how irate I would be losing an actual pet I had devoted my time to.
  3. While I would argue that dogs are usually more adorable (both in terms of their appearance and bumbling thick-as-shit attitude to life), it always seems to be the ‘cat people’ who use phrases like ‘fur baby’ and ‘forever home’. Apologies, but I could never mix with people like that.
  4. You can never blame a fart on a cat.

In fact, so far as I can tell, there has only ever been one advantage to cats as a species – they occasionally dispose of a pigeon or two, and pigeons happen to be one of the only animals I dislike more than cats.

I will, however, qualify my disapproval of cats with two exceptions:

Firstly, I have always been fascinated by ‘big cats’ (by which, I don’t mean the fat lazy kind, but rather the wild animal variety), and the highlight of any trip to Chester Zoo is seeing the lions, tigers, jaguars and cheetahs. In fact, if pushed, I would say my favourite animal of all time would be the cheetah, because, like me, they are sleek, fast, and can only run for around a minute before they need to take a lengthy nap. Well, at least I used to consider myself to be like a cheetah, but then lockdown happened, and nowadays I would find myself far more at home in the rhino enclosure (slow, cumbersome, and horny).

Secondly, we appear to have involuntarily ‘adopted’ a cat called Daisy, and I’m rather fond of her. Well, I say adopted, but we had no part in the decision, as she has essentially taken it upon herself to start living in the hedge in our front garden (see previous comment about cats doing whatever the fuck they want). I’m sure she goes home to her actual owners occasionally, but, most of the time, as soon as I set foot outside our front door, there she is to greet me. And, so help me, she’s adorable.

While not possessing the tail-wagging capabilities of a dog, Daisy always seems pleased to see me, immediately comes over for a fuss (despite the fact we have never fed her), and has not once tried to claw my eyes out – like every other cat I have had the misfortune to meet. Daisy may take the form of a cat, but she possesses the heart of a dog.

I should also stress, we only know her name is Daisy because someone near to where we live posted on Facebook a few months ago that they would like whoever is feeding her to please stop (it wasn’t us), and the picture was definitely her, since we had noticed her around the street for some time. Until that point, we had simply referred to her as ‘slutty cat’, because she didn’t seem to care where the attention came from, so long as she was being admired. See, I told you she’s like a dog.

I even made up an entirely original song for her:

Slutty cat, slutty cat, why are you such a slut?*

*any similarity to a song performed by the character Phoebe in ‘Friends’ is entirely coincidental.

However, even though I am now rather fond of Daisy, I know she is not ours and, more importantly, I know that if we ever bought a cat of our own we would almost certainly get one of the ‘total git’ variety, rather than one like her.

So, if my wife and I do ever succumb to Isaac’s pleas for a pet, we will be getting another dog (although not a puppy, we’re not that stupid), and I think I’m nearly ready to consider doing so, after years of mourning the loss of my dear old friend Bexley.

Until then, we still have Isaac, who is occasionally rather adorable himself.

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Thanks for reading x

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You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Blog

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This is Bexley.

The more observant among you will have noticed that Bexley is a dog. But he’s more than that. He’s the best dog that has ever lived, and he’s part of our family.

For that reason, if I’m going to introduce my family, it’s only fair that I tell you all about Bexley – he was, after all, our first born.

Shortly after Mrs ‘Sandbach Hatter’ lovingly said “Go on then, if there’s no one else” in July 2004, and became my doting wife, we decided it was time to get a pet. Our reasoning was that, if we could keep an animal alive for at least a few years, there was a good chance we wouldn’t be totally useless as parents. We’d both previously had pets growing up, and she’d recently kept a hamster (he was called Charlie, after her favourite king – Charles I – history teachers, eh?), so we felt prepared. I almost killed him once on the M60 (the hamster, not Charles I – he was long since dead), when my brakes didn’t work near the Trafford Centre and our car got intimate, at some velocity, with the back of a Land Rover (which might as well have been a Challenger tank, the pitiful amount of damage it sustained).

Poor Charlie, who until that point had been quite happily patrolling his abode looking for a nice comfy spot to crap, flew across the cage and struck the bars with such force – shortly before sliding down to a crumpled furry heap – that I was certain I had committed hamstercide.  After a few tense seconds (I’m lying here, I was far more concerned about having just written-off my mum’s Citroen Saxo, which was only weeks old), the resilient little bastard got up and continued his latrine-hunt.

Anyway, I digress.

Since we’d both had dogs in the past; since we wanted a pet we could take for walks; and since cats are demonic little fuckers that no one in their right mind would allow into their house, we contacted a local dog re-homing charity in mid-Cheshire (conveniently named “Mid-Cheshire Dog’s Home” for those with a poor sense of direction), and enquired about their availability.

After an adoption-like interview process, which involved someone coming to our house to meet with us and check how suitable we were as potential doggie-parents (presumably, if we’d been North Korean and had a huge rotisserie in the kitchen, this might have rung some alarm bells), we were given the go-ahead.

The charity then sent us a series of profiles, for the dogs they believed fit our criteria: “likes walks” (well, duh), “good with children” (thinking ahead), and “toilet trained” (so at least one of the men in the house would be), and we began to trawl through them. Don’t tell Bexley, but he was about 4th choice. Basically, the first dog that we chose was sadly hit by a car and killed before we had chance to meet him. The owners of the second changed their minds about giving him up. The third, well, it transpired the couple were divorcing and she hadn’t told him she was having the dog re-homed until the evening we were coming to meet him (the dog, not the soon-to-be-irate man), and he phoned us, shortly before we arrived at their house in Chester, to tell us to turn around and piss off. Not sure why he had to be so rude with us, as it wasn’t our fault, but that’s the people of Chester for you. “Small town in Wales, you’re just a small town in Wales….”

Anyway, having become somewhat dejected, we went back through the list of dogs and spotted ‘Becks’. I’ll admit I had some reservations at the time, for whatever reason, but my wife seemed to like him so we agreed to give it another go.  We got in touch with the charity and were told that Becks had been well-loved by his family, but they were emigrating to Australia and, for obvious reasons (he looks ridiculous in sunglasses), they couldn’t take him with them.

The owner decided that she would prefer to bring him to us at our house, rather than for us to go and see him (perhaps to ensure, like the charity had, that we were good, honest, people), and she suggested we keep him for the afternoon and take him for a walk to see what we thought. The owner seemed pleasant enough, but as I hung up, with her horrendous Manc accent still ringing in my ears like chavvy-tinnitus, I remember saying “if the dog’s named ‘Becks’ after David Beckham, we’ll have to change that” (this was 2004, when he was still with Unit*d, and before I grew to quite like him).

Sure enough, she arrived sporting a hideous Unit*d shirt, preceded by a blur of ungainly brown beast, which came bounding into our living room.   I’ll be honest (something I’m trying out recently), but I had my doubts about whether he was the right dog for us at this point. He was very energetic and, despite having had a dog in the family before (which was a Yorkshire Terrier), I’d had a previous bad experience with a larger dog in the past so was still somewhat wary of them.

Nevertheless, we took him out for a walk and, I don’t think my wife will mind me saying, she fell in love with him. Those large puppy-dog eyes, pleading to be loved and looked after, and that long lolloping tongue…. how could I say ‘no’ to her?

So, it was decided. ‘Becks’ became ours and, shortly afterwards, became ‘Bexley’. It’s a better name anyway. In fact, his full name is Bexley Pinkerton Smythe-Hall. That’s not a pedigree name, you understand, it’s just something we decided to give him, to make him more…. well, Cheshire. In fact, no one knows exactly where he came from originally since, although we had got him from a loving family, they had taken him from Manchester Dog’s Home, after he’d been found as a puppy, abandoned and roaming the streets. Bless him.

Next on our ‘to-do’ list, and almost as important as the name change, was to make sure none of that Unite*d-supporting had rubbed off on him. He quickly became the latest Stockport County-supporting canine:

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We’re not even sure what breed he is. There’s definitely a lot of Retriever in there (most likely Chesapeake Bay Retriever, we’re told), and his feet and temperament are almost certainly Labrador, but there’s probably a whole heap more in the  mixing pot too – I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some camel DNA in him, as at least that would explain the weird, patchy, moulting he experiences sporadically). He’s a doggie smorgasbord.

And then there’s his age. Best guess, is that he was a puppy of around six months when the Family Chav got him, so consequently we believe he was thirteen some time last November, but we may be a little out. One thing’s for sure, he doesn’t look or act thirteen, though. In fact, people still come up to us in the park even now to ask how old our puppy is, shocked when we tell them that, as it happens, the lumbering mass of dog currently ricocheting from hedge to hedge in search of truffles (cat shit), is getting on in years. In fact, in dog years, he’s now a nonagenarian. He’ll be getting a letter and a Dentastix from the Queen soon.

At home, which is apparently far less exciting than a park full of cat faeces, he has calmed down considerably, and we’re reminded of his age when he jumps to get into the boot of car, doesn’t make it, and lands in a crumpled heap on the drive. But there’s still that odd occasion when, in his own loveable way, he comes bounding into the living room, seeking out the two freshly made cups of tea like a heat-seeking missile, in order to send them flying in all directions, spraying scalding-hot PG Tips towards an oblivious baby.

Yes, he can be clumsy and irritating at times, particularly with two young kids, but they both dote on him, as do we, and he’s never once complained about having his ears pulled, toys dropped on him, or food thrown at his face. Sometimes, the kids are mean to him too. Besides, if repeatedly hitting his head on a radiator (will he never learn?), getting stuck behind the sofa, and tripping over his own feet were reason not to love him, I’d have been turfed out on my arse a long time ago.

So, he can be an ungainly, smelly, cat-shit eating nuisance at times, but he’s our ungainly, smelly, cat-shit eating nuisance, and we wouldn’t change that for the world.

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