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:
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.