OK, so I am submitting this post to something over at a site called ‘Yeah Write’. Quite what that something is I am not sure yet, but I do know that they seem to take blogging as an art form quite seriously. Obviously I couldn’t agree more. Anyway, here goes nothing.
You have always been more of a cat person, but since having children you are finding yourself becoming increasingly anti-dog rather than merely meh about other people’s bouncy, yappy, toothy best friends.
This is mainly because your kids love dogs and you live in London.
London is a place where only the well off or extremely lucky have outdoor space, and even then it often consists of a balcony. So parks are really crucial places to take the animals for a run. Which is also what dog owners think.
Now this is fine, except that somewhere along the line many of those dog handlers seem to have got the idea that their right to let their mutts run free and unfettered is at least equal, if not more so, to yours to let your children have a bit of fresh air and exercise.
You don’t want to drag your kids around the parks by the hand, forcing them to walk sedately by your side on the pavements. If you wanted to do that, you wouldn’t be in the park in the first place. No, you want to let them off the lead and so they are frequently well out of grabbing reach when some unaccompanied pooch bounds into sight.
Naturally what your kids then do is run joyfully towards this new playmate. At which point a certain type of dog fancier will pop up and point out that it isn’t a good idea to let children get too close to unknown barely tamed wolves.*
It’s probably a good thing they didn’t see the Star before you broke him of the habit of recklessly throwing himself on top of the dog and ruffling its ears affectionately, but what you have had to do in order to make that stick is teach your son guile, and no good will come of this in the long run you feel.
Anyway, now he actively seeks out the dog owner. He smiles winningly at them. He asks, ‘What’s his name?’** It’s a question he isn’t remotely interested in, but it gives him an opening to say, ‘Do you have a ball?’
God help you all if the answer is yes, because then you will be there for hours. You have seen the Star tire out grown dogs with his ceaseless ball throwing, although this was not half as surprising as when he taught a startled looking terrier to sit. Laboriously. It only took 30 minutes.
And then there is the dog shit.
Even in a culture where people mostly pick up their pets’ poo, you have still had to douse first your son and now your daughter in disinfectant after they have proudly opened their hands and showed you the interesting object they have found on the ground. It must be a feature of 18 month olds. ‘Be fascinated and not at all repulsed by canine crap, check’.
To add insult to injury just the other day you were forced to make a polite face at a woman whose dog went very… wetly all over a nearby bit of grass and cheerfully remarked ‘Ah well, can’t pick that up then!!’ At which point you had to rugby tackle the Comet, who thought that would be an excellent thing to roll in.
In fact, you realised just how much you have come to hate the over-friendly barking machines recently, after you and the Star and the Comet had been having a very satisfying leaf fight in amongst a large pile of autumnal offerings. The park keeper approached and you noticed that the three of you had made rather a mess. But no, he wasn’t at all bothered about that, he just wanted to tell you how often he saw dogs pissing in the leaf banks.
Eeeeeeeeeeeyuuuuuuuuuuuw. Lengthy baths all round.
However, all of this you could live with, although any dog owners who meet you and engage in pleasant conversation about their little darlings should know that mentally you are cursing them behind your smile and lacklustre questions about breed.
No, the main problem is that you can see with increasing clarity and every new labrador your children stroke, that being a dog owner is an inevitability in your future.
And really, while you love the kids, you also look forward to those milestones that show they are getting more independent. Since September your son has been wiping his own bottom. In fact, he insists on going to the toilet alone. You feel glee every time he does, as you do every time your daughter picks up her own spoon in her own hand and shovels food into her own mouth herself.
The thought of taking on another responsibility, a responsibility which, basically, stays a small child for the entirety of its far too long life makes you want to scream and run away.
Although at least you wouldn’t have to dress/ undress/ dress/ undress/ dress/ undress/ dress/ undress/ dress/ undress (sorry, where were you?) it.
*The only comment from dog owners more annoying than this is the one that all the ones with bulldogs say which is ‘Oh, he’s great with kids! Just a big softie really!’ What is particularly annoying is that they always glare at you when you hustle your children away anyway.
**Mind you it has done wonders for his social skills as previously his main way of making new friends was to leap on them in much the same way he did dogs, which hardly ever worked. Now he has learned to stop, smile winningly, ask ‘What is your name?’ and ‘Do you have a dog?’
Also, on a very much related note, the Comet gives you: a toddler’s Guide to… Battersea Park.