His eyes are soulful, his soft fur is the colour of pale butter and he is the living embodiment of cuddle-cute. But his spirit is untamed and he is, despite his tiny size, pushing me relentlessly towards the edge of sanity. This is Simba, the eight-week-old Golden Retriever puppy we brought home at the beginning of January. He’s only been here two weeks but already he’s turned our lives upside down. We’ve bought a crate and a stair-gate; I now get up every day at 6.30 am and find myself two minutes later in the dark, frosty garden urging an animal to pee; and all of our tables and shelves are cluttered with shoes, bags, umbrellas and all the things we can no longer leave on the floor. We’ve spent hundreds of pounds already on medicines as Simba was secretly infested with a plethora of parasites when we brought him home. And don’t get me started on toilet-training. One word: diarrhoea.
My husband keeps telling me we will have a beautiful dog one day, but the thing is, today, and tomorrow, and the day after, I am at home alone with Simba. And I don’t know what to do. I have taught him to Sit but that seems to be the limit of my authority. The words Drop, Stop, No and Get Out seem to mean nothing to our little butter-churner. Today, I called a dog training company: 30 minutes later I had an astronomical quote for a home visit, and a sense that I might have been a little too needy with the poor woman who only required a few details, not a blow-by-blow sometimes tearful account of the last two weeks.
Thankfully, I had just finished a first revision of my new book before we got Simba. (It’s taken me four hours just to write the above two paragraphs so writing a book would have been a tad ambitious). When all of this was originally being discussed (and by that I obviously mean when our kids were demanding a puppy), I suppose I had this romantic vision of me taking a break from my writing to walk docile, sweet, silent Simba through the woods. I would smile benignly and probably a little smugly at passers-by as I came up with killer new story ideas in my head. When I got back to my desk (a real desk in my vision, not the dining room table where my computer is squashed between a never-ending game of Risk, a bottle of hand sanitiser and, of course, shoes), I would sip camomile tea and calmly type up my brilliant thoughts as Simba snoozed on my UGG-booted feet.
Instead, I am perched here on my chair all the better to regularly leap up to yell “NO” or “OUT”. I’m wearing my coat and scarf in case I have to dash into the garden at a tail-raised moment’s notice. The sound of Simba’s collar buckle rattlling is like the crackle of the baby monitors of yore: it sets my teeth on edge because it means he is on the move, sneakily looking for carpet fibres to pull, shoes to gnaw, cables to chew, or sweeping brushes to duel with in a Don-Quixote fashion.
But, you know, every cloud etc. I’ve seen some star-spangled night glories and dawn-of-time sunrises thanks to the constant toilet-training; the one time I took him on the bus to the vet, I spoke to more people than I have since moving to this town six months ago; I’ve learnt to iron really, really quickly; and I feel fully and unashamedly justified in dumping my resolution to make this a dry January.
Perhaps most importantly, I have had neither the time nor the energy to focus on the insanity that is the incoming Trump administration, or the fact that the UK is preparing to shoot itself in the foot, economically speaking, just because it wants to cut down the number of foreigners who come here. I know things are bleak and the world is a mess from Syria to the Philippines, but for me, getting the curtains and cables safely through another day is enough to be worrying about.
So, if it all seems too much as we prepare for the #OMG Inauguration #NOWAY #AMIDREAMING #IDIOCRACYBECAMEREAL #AMITRUMAN #PLEASEGODLETMEBETRUMAN, maybe think about getting a puppy.