It’s been a horrible few weeks and I’m fighting shadows. I can’t really argue: my depression hasn’t been an issue for quite some time, so I guess I was due a bad patch. Unfortunately, this particular bout has come at the same time as something else.
Our doggy got diagnosed with Cancer a week or so ago and we have been faced with an awful choice: invasive surgery and equally grim chemotherapy or just leave him as he is and wait for things to deteriorate. This is one of those situations where the little guy is fine in himself, but we discovered the lump and started to investigate: something I’m now regretting. The investigation uncovered a lot of malignant tissue and a large shadow on his lungs. Jake is twelve years old, wags his tail a lot, barks a lot and goes crazy whenever someone visits the house (which has always driven me nuts).
Chiara and I got Jake when we first moved in together. He was there before either of our children and it’s difficult to imagine life without the hairy little dude. He makes so much background noise in the house that I fear the terrible silence that would descend if he wasn’t around. When I met my wife, she had a really irritating bird called Twinkle. It was a cockatiel and it made so much noise when I was working on my pirate novel that I actually wrote it into the book as an annoying parrot called McGuffin. It squawked all day, every day…unless you put a blanket over the cage. We let it out occasionally, during which time it would make the same noise but all over the house. I once even conducted an experiment where I went out for the day and asked the neighbours to report on whether or not the noise stopped (as I was so convinced it was directed at me). When I got home, they told me that it had just squawked all day long, regardless.
I cried when the bloody thing got sick: I didn’t even cry when my nan died.
Animals: they come into your life and the reason that you end up loving them so much is because they’re nicer than people. We all know this.
I’m going to make the most of the next few months with Jake: it might be all there is.
Way back when, I wrote a very popular comedy post on Jakey when he was a puppy that was called ‘The Dog Whisperer’ – it got 68,000 views and was picked up by an international syndication site. Here it is reprinted for the purpose of nostalgia:
THE DOG WHISPERER
When I finally decided that my dog had some sort of mental health issue, I didn’t mess around. I immediately splashed the cash and called in the professional: a £50 per day dog whisperer called Anita who lived on the borders of Kent and claimed to offer a life-changing service for pets AND their owners. This is the email I sent her:
I’m worried about my dog. Could you please come out to my house for one day (at your usual rate) and give me a diagnosis on him? His name is Jake, he’s two years old, and he has a lot of other dogs as parents: we think he’s part spaniel, part labrador, part whippet and part terrier. Here are the list of things I’m worried about:
- He looks at me as if he hates me (can you tell if he does by talking to him?)
- He looks at my wife the same way.
- He doesn’t get excited by ANYTHING except other people. Even when I feed him, he just mopes over the food.
4. He’s SO happy when I go out, it’s just ridiculous. As soon as I get my coat, he goes crazy. I thought it might be excitement about going for a walk, but he gets REALLY miserable again if I actually put a lead on him and take him out.
5. I’m starting not to like him, either. Can you tell him that?
Thanks in advance,
Mr D. Stone (call me Dave)
She arrived on a wet Tuesday morning sometime in February, and came in out of the pouring rain like a character from a Lovecraft movie. Standing there in the hall, dripping wet in an old sheepskin coat and a pair of boots that looked as if they were covered in dog sh*t, she was – pound for pound – the most unattractive and unfriendly looking woman I have ever laid eyes on.
Immediately, I decide that her lack of any warmth and sex appeal means that she is a TERRIFIC dog whisperer. I look round at Jake, who usually LOVES other people coming into the house. This time, however, he’s backing away. It’s possible he thinks that she’s another dog (I wondered myself), but there’s a slim chance he’s actually terrified of her.
“Let’s not have any of that,” she snaps, quickly striding up to Jake and putting out her hand. He reaches up his nose and sniffs, then he’s ALL over this woman – and I mean ALL OVER HER. In about eight seconds, they’re best friends…which is when she turns to me and says: “Can you give us a moment?”
I smile…..for too long. “I’m sorry?”
“Would you mind giving us a moment, Mr Stone?”
“What – you and the dog?”
“Myself and Jake, yes. You DO want to know what’s wrong with him?”
I nod, thinking about the £50 I could have given to ANY local lunatic rather than actually calling one in, long distance.
“Into the kitchen, then. Off you go.”
“Sure thing,” I say. “Er….tea? Coffee?” (bowl of water?)
“Tea, white with five sugars. Bring it back with you: I’ll only need a few seconds.”
I make the tea, but I’m at the kitchen door….listening for barking or even howling or something.
NOT ONE SOUND.
Then I go back in to see that she and Jake are cuddled up on the sofa.
She grins at me, and says: “You can stop worrying. He thinks you’re okay.”
My inner voice immediately goes ‘Just OKAY? F**k him! I feed and walk the little jerk!”
Then she says. “I’m afraid it’s the house he doesn’t like.”
I slowly sit down next to the pair of them, and look doubtfully at a dog who is now on his back with all four legs in the air, moaning with pleasure as this big female yeti is scratching his stomach.
“Is it haunted or something? I saw that in a movie once, and-“
“It’s not haunted, Mr Stone. He just doesn’t like it, here: the layout of the rooms has him very stressed. Ideally, he needs to be somewhere with a lot more light and, if possible, an open plan living room.”
I stare at her to see if she’s joking.
I want to say “Who does this dog think he is? You should see the s**thole we got him from! I didn’t even want to sit DOWN in that house…” but what I actually say – because I hate confrontation – is: “Hmm…..maybe we could move things around a bit for him.”
Amazingly, this doesn’t make her go. “Oh, you’re SUCH a lovely owner.” Instead, she goes: “Maybe move the sofas so that there is more open space around the front of the room?”
I nod, thinking, you mad old tart: he’s going in the garden when you leave. I’m not completely changing the layout of the house so that Bonio Gronk can stretch out beside the fire and think everyone who walks through the front door is his b*tch. He’s a dog: they used to run wild. Now this one’s an interior designer.
Then something really horrible and truly shocking happens.
I look around and realize that he’s actually right. The layout of our living room is just…..DREADFUL. Everything’s wrong: it’s like we opened the door and threw all the furniture inside.
When I glance down again, I see that Anita the dog whisperer is affectionately patting my arm. I immediately wonder if, just by touching me, she’s giving me…..THE SIGHT. Dog Sight. Something similar?
The rest of the day is spent going through diet plans, walking schedules, obedience training and general pet maintenance. For all this, she charges me her day rate and promptly disappears.
When my wife gets home, she doesn’t believe a WORD of it. For the next few years, our dog becomes steadily more and more unpredictable….and then – finally – we move house.
I showed him the details of the first three properties we looked at, and I swear he actually WAGGED his tail when I came to the house we now live in.
Of course, that was then.
Now he’s here, he hates this place too.
There’s just no pleasing the little b***ard.