Annual canine-fest Crufts starts today in Birmingham. What better reason for comedian Juliet Meyers to extol the virtues of dogs…and one dog in particular?
The high-pitched screaming and yelping with delight starts the second I’m home…and the dog’s excited to see me too. We both dive on the sofa, he wags his bum off and squishes his head into my stomach while I exclaim, “Hello, buddy!” repeatedly, waiting for BOTH of us to calm down.
Going for a walk feels empty unless there’s a dog trotting on in front of me. He’s the ultimate satnav, remembering all routes previously taken and stopping at points of interest. I once popped my head round the door of a pub to ask if they did Sunday lunch and that logged a cookie in his canine browsing history forever.
In the Lake District he actually pulls me up hills and when we go down more hazardous rocky bits he looks back to check I’m OK, prompting me to shout: “Yes, thank you, I’m not 100 years old you know.”
Last summer he was astonished when I swam in one of the lakes. I’d spent years throwing balls into the water for him but he’d never seen me get in before, so he barked his head off until I got out. I often think I might have to rescue him one day. Whenever he swims back to shore with a tennis ball in his mouth he tends to make a wheezing sound and I resign myself to the fact I’d give him the kiss of life if I had to.
He’s not even my dog, he’s my brother’s, but I look after him for weeks at a time when he’s away. I’m now planning to get a dog of my own as time with him is so life-affirming. People say: “Do you know how much of a commitment having a dog is?” Hell yes – I have performed the various ownership quests.
On this particular standard Schnauzer’s behalf, aside from the inevitable pooper scooping, I’ve stolen tennis balls from posh tennis clubs (he destroys the supermarket ones in minutes), then carried them home once he’s covered them in salivary revoltingness. I’ve grovelled and apologised when he gulped down an old man’s sandwiches at the top of a mountain, was supportive when school children laughed at him for growling at a statue (and similarly when he sniffed a giant toy dog’s bum in a shop to see if it was real). I even bought two Christmas wreaths outside a flower shop because he’d done a territorial wee on them.
There’s also the time I took him to the vet’s because he had humped his cushion for so long his winky wouldn’t go back in and the fact that I’ve curtailed nights out so he isn’t alone for too long because – frankly – I adore him. What’s more, he gives it back one hundred fold.
In my occasionally complicated, sometimes over-thinking and anxious world the unconditional love of a dog is utterly wonderful. He even melts the angry faces of some of the disaffected youth when he trundles up to them; he’s very confident of his own charms. He gets me out of the house in all weathers, even when it’s so windy he could go from walking on his lead one minute to flying like a kite the next.
I admire his straightforwardness; his unbridled joy and playfulness and the way he doesn’t care whether he’s hurtling round the park with a dog twice – or half – his size.
He’s great company snuggling next to me on the sofa. He makes me laugh with his eternal determination to race me to the top or bottom of every staircase and his bemusement that I stay up so late (he goes to the bedroom, waits for me, then comes down and stands in front of the TV).
I roll my eyes at his macho puffiness in assuming the role of security guard when strangers knock at the door but I appreciate it really. I thought all dogs did this but apparently not. Some friends came home one evening and saw from the street that an intruder was in their flat: he was being closely followed by their trusty Labrador wagging his tail.
There is so much unspoken communication between dog and human. Although my pupster nephew understands about 20 phrases, I wish he also knew a few more: “You don’t want this sausage, it’s Quorn.” “That doorbell was on the TV.” “Relax, I can swim.”
And: “Yes, I am using your poo bags as refuse sacks, I’ve run out of bin liners.”
Juliet Meyers is a writer (for radio and television), comedian, feminist and middle-lane swimmer. @julietmeyers