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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 06-Nov-14 12:11:46

The pleasures of being a dog-owner

You know what they say - "a home without a dog is just a house". "They" being dog owners far and wide, of course. One of those owners is Christopher Matthew, who describes a life happily lived with furry beasts. So, are you a dog devotee like Christopher, or happy to leave the fun and fur to other households?

Christopher Matthew

The pleasures of being a dog-owner

Posted on: Thu 06-Nov-14 12:11:46


Lead photo

Man's best friend...and social wing man.

One of the great pleasures of being a dog owner is the easy way one falls into conversation with other dog owners while out and about. The other day, in London's Hyde Park I met an elderly Irish woman who was out walking with her perky little West Highland Terrier.

His name was Rocco and, being only ten months old, he was exceptionally full of beans - unlike our Kerry Blue Terrier who was decidedly off with him and brushed him aside with the odd growl, rather like a sixth form prefect with a bumptious new boy.

I gathered that the woman was a widow, and that she had decided to buy a dog by way of companionship. Things had obviously worked out well for both of them.

"He is my rock," she said - and no pun was intended.

Had my wife been present, she might well have commented, as she is wont to do, "I can't think how anyone can live without a dog."

It’s a sentiment with which all fellow dog owners would whole-heartedly agree. Kerry Blues have been our dogs of choice for the past 40 years. Indeed, there was one in residence when we first met in the early seventies. She was called Kerrels (the dog, that is) and, as one brought up with dachshunds, it took me a while to establish a working relationship with an animal that was a good deal larger, hairier and more boisterous than anything I had been used to.

When you have experienced the very real feelings that a dog has for its owner, the sheer strength of will that many possess, and the huge range of human characteristics that all breeds display, you can't help thinking that there is a lot more going on in those furry heads than scientists would have us believe.

Kerrels’s attitude to me was no less cool, and for some time her gaze was (to quote P.G.Wodehouse on the subject of a similarly hairy dog in a Blandings novel) "cold, wary and suspicious, like that of a stockbroker who thinks someone is going to play the confidence trick on him."

Happily, we developed a warm relationship and she became a central figure in both our lives. As have all her successors.

A friend once remarked of one of them called Milly, that he thought she was really a human being wearing a dog outfit. I am not one to anthropomorphise animals, but when you have experienced the very real feelings that a dog has for its owner, the sheer strength of will that many possess, and the huge range of human characteristics that all breeds display, you can't help thinking that there is a lot more going on in those furry heads than scientists would have us believe.

Emily Dickinson went further. "Dogs are better than humans," she wrote, "because they know but do not tell."

Mind you, their attention span often leaves a lot to be desired - to wit, this little verse I once wrote on the subject, called Puppy Love:

When Dad comes home at half past six,
I'm on him like a shot
With leaps and bounds and slurps and licks
I give him all I’ve got.

I couldn't love a human more;
That's why I treat him rotten;
Then carry on as heretofore,
Attending to my bottom.

If you're a dog owner, or lover, let us know why you think they're man (and woman)'s best friend below.

By Christopher Matthew

Twitter: @Gransnet

glammanana Thu 06-Nov-14 12:54:37

We have always had a dog or dogs in the home even when I was small,my children have always been brought up with dogs and it has shown them how to be caring to others not just animals,I can understand though that it is not everyone's cup of tea as we can have dog owners who would not tolerate a cat maybe the choice is for the individual,but our family have had their lives enhanced by dogs of all shapes and sizes.
When out and about more people speak and acknowledge you and your dog than if you where on your own or a couple just walking,children chat and ask can they say hello so all in all it makes for a very sociable life having my little Poppy out with me most days.

kazzer Thu 06-Nov-14 18:49:11

A friend with two autistic boys is get ting a labrador as therapy for them. We have always had labs currently Henry, 7 stone, 45 kilo bar of chocolate that walks me daily come rain or shine!though I am not keen on inclement weather he is never phased! He has an unbelievable internal alarm clock, 4.40pm staring routine prior to dinner at 5!

atvan Thu 06-Nov-14 19:13:30

I have had a dog in my life for as far back as I can remember. My darling little black poodle would be dressed in my dolls clothes and pushed around in my dolls pram. Big black eyes staring at anybody who came to see 'my dolly'.
I had several Westies while the children were growing up, and they all lived very long lives and of course I loved them as if they were my children so when the last one died and all the children had left home I was adamant that I could not take that pain again and would not have another dog.
Then my youngest who lives abroad, got a pug. I was there just after they got her and she was still a puppy, it was instant love and of course the pain of parting when I had to come home was terrible. So when I got home I just googled 'pug' and the next week this little black bundle of joy was sitting on my lap adoring me. She IS my life. I have talked to so many people because of her, she is so cute, she is so friendly, she is just the most adorable little bundle of life you could ever wish for. Why did I go all those years without a dog, the joy of living with my little pug far outweighs the pain of parting, and the memories I will always have. She is my joy, she makes me laugh out loud, literally, every day, so intelligent and so clever I just love her to bits.

oznan Thu 06-Nov-14 19:44:21

I have always had dogs and each one of them had their own little quirks and personality traits.Some pedigrees,some mongrels but all loved all the same.A rescue dog from Spain now resides with me and it is a joy every day to share my life with him.I cannot trust people that don't like animals and I rather agree with Emily Dickinson,dogs are better than people.Their love,gratitude,loyalty and empathy are stronger than any humans,in my experience!

whenim64 Thu 06-Nov-14 21:01:57

Just watching For the Love of Dogs with Paul O'Grady and thinking about all the dogs I have shared my life with. I don't know what started my love of dogs, as my parents and siblings never showed any interest, but for as long as I can remember I've wanted to spend time with them, play with neighbours' dogs, walk them, rescue them and when I was old enough, bring my own dog home. From then on, I've spent most of my life sharing my home with at least one dog. I see this same passion in a couple of my grandchildren, who claim my dog is theirs and rush to be with her as soon as they see her - she returns that love for all of them and willingly joins in with their games. I can't imagine life without a canine companion. They enhance life and have given me some wonderful memories.

Iam64 Fri 07-Nov-14 08:46:24

I sometimes feel I could write my life story in dogs. They have enriched my life for as long as I can remember and I genuinely can't imagine life without at least one dog to share it with. As a child, I adored my grandfather's spaniel/lab cross. He was a mongrel in the 1950's, but would now be called a springador and cost lots of money, rather than be handed over at the pub on a Friday night as grandpa's dog was. My maternal extended family seems to be genetically predisposed to loving dogs, whereas dad saw himself as the person who had to draw a line in the sand about the number of dogs we lived with. He broke his own rule by coming home one evening with a Lancashire Heeler pup, given to him by a local farmer. The breed appealed to dads sense of independence I think, and others followed over the years. I currently have two dogs, but we've often had 3. I do understand, and accept, that not everyone loves dogs, some people fear them, and do my best to ensure that my two are pleasant and well behaved. They fill our lives with joy grin

vampirequeen Fri 07-Nov-14 11:14:53

I don't want to own a dog as I don't have a lifestyle that is fair to a dog but I'd love to be able to borrow a dog a few times a month to go for walks. A proper dog like a Lab or a German Shepherd. Something that enjoys a good long walk. Of course I'd have to get a clever pooper scooper gadget because I'm too squeamish to just use a plastic bag to clean up the inevitable lol.

vampirequeen Fri 07-Nov-14 11:15:34

Just read my post....sorry for the appalling grammar lol.

Tegan Fri 07-Nov-14 11:35:34

I use plastic bags with a plastic beach shovel thingy; I couldn't put my hand in a bad and do it shock. I'm rather taken with pugs these days, but scared to switch from my sighthounds having adapted my house and life to accomodate them.

sherish Fri 07-Nov-14 12:38:42

Vampire Queen, at our local boarding kennels they are asking for volunteers to do dog walking. The same at the rescue centre where we got our cat. There are lots of people who volunteer and they sometimes go off together so it's also a way of meeting people. I hope you have places like this near to you. Other than that, people who are out at work could benefit from a dog walker if they had a trustworthy person to go into their house to get the dog. Maybe worth a card in your local shop. Good luck.

tigger Fri 07-Nov-14 15:06:00

Err............ what do you mean vampirequeen, just because my two little lapsos' are small doesn't mean they are not "proper dogs".

Iam64 Fri 07-Nov-14 17:02:56

Mine are poodle crosses, so definitely don't qualify as 'proper dogs' in the eyes of some dog breed snobs. Are we bovvered, no, we aren't. smile

blackdog2 Fri 07-Nov-14 17:12:09

I have a 45kg. black bundle of fun that walks me twice a day come rain or shine. Have had big black labrador boys for very many years following spending years of walking the inmates for a rescue centre. Without him I would have found life very hard, I lost my wife 18 months ago after have looked after her for 29 years. Fittingly where the rescue centre used to be is now a woodland burial centre so that had to be the place for a plot and to hold our celebration of my wife's life. On the day we were in the chapel with the coffin about six foot away from us he looked up from where he was laying at my feet, got up, turned and put his front paws up on my thighs and licked my face. This he has never done before or since but he has become so close it is unbelievable. We are fortunate to live backing on to woodlands so open the gate at the bottom of the garden and away we go.

hildajenniJ Fri 07-Nov-14 17:12:19

I have a fifteen year old Parson Russell Terrier. She has been a lovely dog, absolutely brilliant with the GC. Now she sleeps a lot, likes the idea of a walk but will not go very far,and is a little incontinent.
I've never minded cleaning up the poo. I just put my hand inside a carrier bag and pick it up. I never was a squeamish person!
When she goes beyond, we won't have another dog. They are too much of a tie.

merlotgran Fri 07-Nov-14 17:12:38

My DH would agree with vampirequeen but as well as our two Jack Russells I adore DD's two chihuahuas. They are full of character, obedient, cute and very funny.

We miss having a large dog around the place but we know we'd never cope with one now. sad

Iam64 Fri 07-Nov-14 17:23:42

blackdog2, that's a moving post from you. Dogs are remarkable therapy, either used in formal settings, or simply sharing our lives. My mum died after several difficult weeks, during which I must have been on auto pilot, emotions firmly held in place (most of the time ) The night she died, I came home, sat on the sofa, and howled, cried, sobbed. My two dogs had been asleep in another room, they came in put their heads on my knee, and clearly wanted to comfort me.

I took my young dog to visit mum in law in the nursing home not long before she died. He's a lively, often reactive young dog, but I knew from his previous visits to elderly people in residential homes, that he simply knows what they need. He is very quiet, calm and slow in his movements, rests his head on their knees, and stands letting them stroke him for as long as they like. dogs eh, who'd have them smile

vampirequeen Fri 07-Nov-14 19:05:31

Oh dear. Sorry I didn't mean to offend those who love little dogs. In fact I didn't really think through my post at all hence the rubbish grammar.

I didn't mean that terriers, poodles, diddly little things or heinz 57s aren't proper dogs. I meant dogs of a certain size that need a good long walk and will make me feel safe outside. A sort of mutual support partnership grin

Iam64 Sat 08-Nov-14 08:09:52

I don't suppose you have offended anyone vampire, the phrase "proper dogs" is usually aimed at german shepherds, labs and other big dogs. I know that the breeds I currently share my life with aren't for everyone, and understand why that could be.

So many discussions about dogs seem to polarise folks these days. smile

EvaC Sat 08-Nov-14 14:06:11

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EvaC Sat 08-Nov-14 14:10:06

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Iam64 Sat 08-Nov-14 14:22:22

EvaC I've reported your post, it sounds like an advertisement

soontobe Sat 08-Nov-14 14:24:29

Always had dogs.
I keep a respectful distance from some breeds.

Scooter58 Sat 08-Nov-14 15:27:41

We had a German Shepherd when I was growing up,got my own for my 21st and have had dogs ever since.I have 3 German Shepherds at the moment and in the past have also had a whippet/Collie cross and also a Lab/Collie cross,all great dogs and I can't imagine never having a dog,I will always strive to have at least one in my life.

whenim64 Sat 08-Nov-14 15:35:36

One of our dogs was a long haired German Shepherd who was enormous enough to block out the sunlight when he put his paws up on the windowsill. A gentle giant who liked to sit and watch the children having a bath, lie alongside the sofa if they weren't well, and sit by the swings in the park whilst they ran about, minding their belongings - as long as he had his own packet of crisps to eat when they had theirs. Such a beautifully behaved dog who adored his family.