Recently we got a dog. This has been a huge gift in our lives. There is much more laughter and chaos about the place. Which is no bad thing. We do benefit from new change to our lives, and our dog is certainly a major one. For starters, our home has turned into two homes: a first class lounge, upstairs, where the dog can’t go and the cats now live most of the time in the winter. They lounge on beds and on window seats, stretched out in the peace and quiet, where the air is fresh and the pillows soft. Then there is economy class, down on the ground floor of our home. In economy class everything smells of dog food, dog hair, wet dog bed. There are spit stains, and damp patches on sofas and rugs, which we hope are actual spit and not something worse. Then the walls have either been chewed or have mud up them. I seem to be the one spending all the time downstairs in the economy lounge, while my family find things to do upstairs. Not sure how that happened?
Other minor adjustments include things like the washing machine is permanently on. Who knew a dog needed so many towels? More than us? Also, we never get to sit down for that long before we are up again playing with the dog, or to let the dog out, let the dog in, fill the water bowl, feed the dog (still three meals a day at the moment) give the dog treats, buy the dog treats, brush the dog (Old English), pick up after the dog. We have a toy box, just like a toddler would have and the last thing I do at night is gather the toys all up. But I love our dog so much that I don’t mind. The best thing is when the dog jumps up on the sofa and hugs me, for no reason at all (already been fed). And will fall asleep with a paw on my arm (of course making it impossible for me to write).
Experiencing a dog’s unconditional love (owners like to think it’s not all about the food) is certainly something strange after having spent decades with cats. Oh how we love our cats, make no mistake… and we have not neglected their welfare at all. They receive regular treats around the clock and get to sleep on my bed whenever they like – which means mostly wanting to be stroked when I’m trying to sleep. But just to receive that much love from a fluffy puppy bundle is, well, a welcome surprise. Having had dogs all through my childhood and teen years, I had still forgotten how much a dog soon turns into your shadow and hangs on your every word.
And, the walks are something else. Getting out twice a day into the fresh air – whether in sun or rain, cold or warm – is such a bonus. It’s so easy to sit back indoors and look out of the window and say ‘nah, not today’ (or it is for me, clearly not a wind surfer, rower, or mountain climber). But not with a dog, there’s a much more ‘C’mon. Do it’ mentality in our household. Then you meet all the other dog owners, who make you realise that you must be as nutty as they are (I know they won’t mind me saying that, as they all tell me ‘all dog owners are nutty’ as if it is some badge of honour). I truly believe a dog is good for your mental health. For no matter how bad a day gets, a cuddle from a dog seems to melt the worst of it away. And I have never not wanted to go out and said ‘not today’. It’s just too much fun.
All this past six month’s joy from our dog has left my writing somewhat on the back burner. I gave myself a month to adjust to the puppy, the puppy to me. That turned into two. Instead, I told myself I would plot out my next book’s storyline. And I have done that, thank goodness. I now have Book 3 of the Cambridge Murder Mystery Series, all ready to write. I will certainly get onto that this year. But what has also emerged is the spine of a book where all the characters are dogs, and they live by the sea. It has come from spending so much time with our dog. Wish me luck on this project. I think I’m going to need it!
Clearly dogs don’t think like us, which is something for me to bear in mind when writing. But how much do they share with us? Research is constantly finding new things out about dogs. An interesting study found that staring at our dogs releases a happy hormone. And it does the same for a dog. We both get endorphins when we are together and happy according to this article in The Telegraph. Another article in The Guardian, talks about how dogs are perhaps very good at reading our body language and faces I was most interested by Rupert Sheldrake’s studies about how dogs know when their owners are coming home too. I’m certainly enjoying the research! Happy New Year!