Hello dogalogue friends, we are back (and thank you Simon for giving me a little push). My tests were all clear. I am on day 24 of the super re-energising trendy Nothing-Nice diet (no alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, chocolate, meat, fish, dairy, sex or added sugar). Hector has put on about three kilos and he’s learnt to bark and swim. We are as fresh as daisies and hot to trot.
Which is a good thing because, frankly, I was running out of things to write about. My Mum got away with saying it out loud: “do you think it’s because…perhaps…you know… the novelty of Hector might have worn off a bit?” What? No! But yes. But no, it’s just that at the beginning he was a bit of a Project. And for the first six months he changed, he blossomed, daily. And now…well, he’s just a dog. Adored. But. He eats. He sleeps…
Someone suggested, oddly, that I could “throw him in the river”. That was before he learnt to swim. But even so, ‘dog thrown in river so owner could blog about it’ may indeed resemble the kind of non-story that shivers our timbers down here in the land of The Bridport News but it’s not exactly going to excite anyone except the RSPCA, is it?
So, the upshot is, I’ve bought an ancient motorhome and we’re going on the road. It’s going to be Travels With Hector, Dogalogue Part Two. And it came about because, in the last few weeks, I’ve done a lot of Visiting and I have not experienced so much guest-paranoia or anxious creeping about since the time I went to my best friend Janey’s 18th birthday party and was caught by her mother (Lady Hayter Hames of Chagford, Devon), naked, drunk, disorientated and on all fours, traversing the pitch-black landing of her stately pile trying to find the door of the room in which she’d prophylactically billetted my boyfriend.
Visiting, plus a dog, is the best possible way to experience the heroic politeness and hypocrisy of ones friends. When Hector tramples all over the flowerbeds, jumps on the sofa, shakes puddle-mud all over the fresh laundry, eats the cat food and generally causes mayhem, our dear hosts, one and all, persist in saying, “don’t worry about it! Really. It’s fine. I wish I had that energy! I was going to have that sofa re-upholstered anyway”, albeit, I notice, with an increasing lack of conviction and the occasionally leaked deep sigh.
As the culpable guest I twist myself into agonies of apology and self-deprecation: “he’ll calm down in a minute, honestly, he’s just so pleased to see you. And he’s still a puppy. I would leave him in the car but it’s a bit hot, no? And he might feel abandoned. Yes, I know, don’t say it, I am one neurotic doggy-mama! What have I done? Don’t answer! Is there somewhere I can stow this enormous bag of bones, ha ha?” It’s very stressful.
Even at Mum’s where he is one of the family and allowed on the sofa it isn’t much easier. Mum doesn’t sleep well and Hector’s very early morning routine of peeing and breakfast is a logistical nightmare involving three flights of stairs, a balcony and a self-slamming pantry door. Years of eavesdropping have endowed me with precise knowledge of every creaking floorboard in the house but try teaching that to a beast with four feet and clicky toenails. I might be the only dog owner in England trying to get her dog to obey the command, “Tiptoe, for fucks sake!”
So, as you can imagine, I have been feeling a little despondent about the summer. What shall we do? Where shall we go? Why am I feeling ever so slightly sick? Oh yes, I know. It’s because for the two years prior to getting Hector in which I successfully talked myself out of getting him, I used to say, “this is the first time in thirty years I have been free. Why the hell would I want to tie myself down with a bloody dog?” And now I’ve gorn and done it.
Well, we’ve got the Romahome now and we’re off to explore Wales in a couple of weeks. Just him and me. Yes, free. And if I hadn’t been watching Hinterland I might be looking forward to it more than I am, what with all those spooky reservoirs, bleak quarries, black water, brooding men and murderers and mountains… what am I thinking? Don’t answer…
Luckily Hector is immune to such nervous flights of fancy. He is, as always, a constant source of inspiration and courage. And he can bark. So, let’s hope the whole adventure gives us something to write home about.
And not: ‘Pensioner, 61, with suspiciously hoarse Labrador, found crying in the back of a 1992 Citroen surrounded by sheep’.