I was thinking of getting a dog. This news will come as a shock to many of my friends but to a few it’ll be welcome because they’ve suggested a dog would be company during lonely nights on the Ottermobile.
In the past I’ve written disparagingly on this subject but I think I’ve been clear that it’s dog-owners rather than dogs that get my goat. So why did I suddenly feel I wanted one? Because of loneliness? For company and love? Because it could chase the black dog away? I could teach it tricks? I could train it to go and fetch my newspaper? Or use it as a prop for the purposes of begging? All those things perhaps, but it’s a fact that on my travels I’ve met many dogs and they’ve seemed to take a shine to me.
Take Rachel and her little pooch in Filey, which had me happily playing “fetch” for ages and wouldn’t let me rest. And Gary and Janet’s three mutts in Nantwich, which I’ve become very fond of. In fact, they go on holiday later this month (Gary and Janet not the dogs) and I’ve offered to look after things in their absence to repay their kindness, and I’m determined to teach them new tricks (the dogs not Gary and Janet).
So I was pondering the pros and cons, the arguments for getting a dog which are many, and the arguments against. I guess it’s the same with dogs as it is with people. I’ve met hundreds of people on my journey so far, a great percentage of them very nice, decent, kind, civil and clean. But there have been some who are complete shits, or not nice, decent, kind, civil or indeed clean.
I’ll provide an example to illustrate my point: At a campervan park near Alnwick, Northumberland, a fellow campervanner came for a chat. It was early in the morning and I was pre-shit, shave and shower. Now I don’t mind being sociable at all, I’m a people-person, but I’d rather be a people-person when I’ve woken up properly and had a decent bowel-movement and a wash. This man, called Fred, was clearly of the opposite point-of-view, being unshaven, unwashed and bearing morsels of his breakfast in the corner of his mouth.
He asked how long I was staying and I explained I was moving on (once I’d washed) because I actually live on the van and I was heading north to Scotland if the van could make it there. Suitably impressed, he explained he was just there for two nights with his missus and their dog then would return home to Yarm.
So impressed was he with my story that he wished he could do the same; kick the rat-race into touch and take to the road. He was a nice enough fella I suppose was Fred, but he was not one to obey the laws of body-space and all the time he spoke he kept spitting, and tiny droplets of spittle kept hitting my face. Also, there remained the morsel of breakfast which was working its way centre-stage on his lips, where it dangled for it’s dear life like some tiny man on a clifftop.
In my work as a storyteller and a “soap opera expert” I’ve often talked about cliffhangers, and this was a real-life one where I (the audience) was waiting to see what happened to the tiny morsel of breakfast. This would’ve been fine in the dramatic sense, but for me it was all rather unsettling because I feared that when this thing lost its fight for life it would fly off the lippy clifftop and land on my face with the rest of his spittle.
Typical of my luck, that’s exactly what happened and I was forced to endure the rest of the interminable conversation without wiping it off hence drawing attention to it. A similar thing had happened back in Redcar where a fellow-homeless campervanner had a bogey hanging off his nose and it eventually fell perilously close to my sandwiches. Well this was an even worse horror as I traumatised myself over whether to tell my audience something was amiss.
So as this morsel of breakfast rested on my lip after leaving his (a kind of quasi-homosexual kiss) I frankly felt wretched and filthy. And when at last he returned to his van he was greeted by his smiling wife and gleeful dog, which jumped up at him… and licked his face.
I could forgive dog-lovers like Gary and Janet for thinking me shallow, but I couldn’t help feeling that if Fred’s dog was apt to lick his face, he’d already done so that morning, the thought of which made me feel doubly wretched and filthy. And when I think back to this, I realise that on the whole I’m not really a doggy person and the reasons against getting a dog just about tip the balance. So in which case I should stick to my guns, stay dog-less and rely on a human-being for warmth, obedience, company and unconditional love.