My family and friends divide neatly into the dog-mad and the dog-skeptical. I have always been very much in the latter camp, considering hounds rather like permanently unruly children – they’re well-meaning and friendly, but they simply can’t control themselves.
They jump all over me, they run around indoors and frequently knock things over, and they drool everywhere. Especially, it seems, on my pants.
At mealtimes dogs try to scab food from the table, trying to catch your eye as if to say “brother, can you spare a rasher of bacon?”, and when I sit down in a comfy chair afterwards, they come and jump on me, and/or drool on my leg some more.
They do it from love, I realise, but their love sometimes seems indiscriminate and overbearing. Sometimes when you love someone, you need to give them a bit of space. Dogs don’t really do space.
I’ve always felt that the best place for exuberant dogs was outside, where you can play with them when you feel like it, and not the other way around.
Whereas cats, in my opinion, are magnificent just about all of the time. Sure, you have to work to win a cat over in the first place. Nothing truly worthwhile in this life comes easily.
But when you’re friendly with a cat, it’ll fit neatly on your lap, and purr endearingly. In the depths of winter, cats will snuggle up next to your feet, like a self-powered hot water bottle. Or, they might not. A cat is like a flatmate – although admittedly one you have to feed. Sometimes they want to hang out, and sometimes they do their own thing.
Sure, sometimes “their own thing” involves dragging dead birds and rodents into your living room, but we all receive presents we don’t like now and then – the best thing to do is just re-gift them.
And what’s more, unlike most flatmates, cats are fastidiously clean.
Receiving the affection of a cat is precious. Whereas dogs are always “on”, so to speak. When you get home, they’ll flip out every time – which is heartwarming on one level, but also seems a little undiscriminating.
While I am admittedly awesome, dogs constantly behave like 13-year-olds in the presence of One Direction. It’s a good thing they can’t operate cameras, because they’d constantly be letting off flashes in our faces and asking us for just one photo, like members of the pupperazzi.
(Sorry about that pun, but it’s the kind of wordplay dog fans love. Which is why every second pet shop is called something like Under One Woof or Paws For Thought.)
What’s more, it’s become clear in recent years that I’m allergic to the majority of dogs. They make my eyes itch, and sometimes trigger my asthma. Even my body’s involuntary responses, it seems, aren’t so big on canines.
All of these sensible reservations about dogs matter not a jot to some people I know, who are entirely happy to have dogs underfoot, and the more the merrier. They love taking them wherever they go, and they seem to view the obligation to walk them at least once a day as a delightful chance to spend quality time in the fresh air rather than an inconvenient burden.
But in recent weeks I’ve found myself softening. Having spent a bit of time in the company of a small cross-breed-but-mostly-Australian terrier, I’ve discovered that certain dogs come with considerable upside. Having somebody following you around and gazing adoringly at you isn’t exactly the worst thing. Going for walks can be a good way to stretch your legs on a lovely sunny day. And if your dog is small enough, it can curl up on your lap too, just like a cat – only they’re always up for it.
Best of all, it turns out that some dogs are hypoallergenic. Hound-elluia!
(Sorry, but we dog fans love our puns.)
The pooch in question is a rescue dog, and I’ve discovered recently that supply generally outstrips demand. So if you’re thinking of adding a little drool factory to your household, do check out your local shelter.
Meeting a rescue dog has made me realise that while I haven’t always been a huge dog fan, a lot of people are genuinely cruel to them, which seems especially horrible when dogs are so unquestioningly affectionate. Such people deserve to be reincarnated into chew toys.
I’m not an unqualified dog convert – given a free choice, I’d still go for a cat, as much because I doubt my own ability to offer sufficient time and energy. They’re lower maintenance – never needing walks has its advantages, and if you’re busy, you won’t feel as guilty.
But I have begun to understand how the other half live. So much so that I’ve even begun to offer scraps of bacon from the table. And I love bacon.
In the end, dogs offer boundless affection and companionship. And why on earth wouldn’t you be up for that?
Oh dear, I think they’ve won me over.