Friday, 24 November 2017

There's no time off when you have a dog

It’s great being a single mum whose ex-husband is a thoroughly brilliant dad because, every two weeks, when he has the kids over to his place, I get a whole two days to myself to do whatever I please — watch whatever I want on the telly, eat whatever junk I want without worrying about the bad example I’m setting, lie in the bath for hours and read — it’s all to play for.

For the first five minutes after they leave, I usually feel a bit bereft and cuddle our handsome hound Cookie while I recover from the Daughter Formerly Known As The Ten-Year-Old Teenager-Who’s-Just-Turned-11’s latest cruel parting shot.

These days, in true old-lady-style, I keep my tissues under my bra strap and, as I bend over to kiss my girl goodbye, (being elevated by the front doorstep), several hundred crumpled Kleenex fall out of my T-shirt. She says: “Oh my God! Aren’t I the one who’s supposed to be stuffing my bra with tissues? So lame, Mum. Bye!” And off she trots.

I deal with this in the usual way — by laughing thinly and waving goodbye, wiping a small tear from my eye and making a mental note to get into M&S ASAP for a bra fitting.

On the plus side (as I am these days — but I’ve just joined Weight Watchers, so all that’s set to change), I quickly remember that Cookie and I now have the whole weekend to ourselves, so we take off for the fields by the river.

It’s a glorious day and I’m busy bragging to a fellow puppy-owner who has his Cocker Spaniel on a long line lead about how Cookie always looks back for me and comes whenever I call him these days, when I realise Cookie’s actually nowhere to be seen.

The Cocker Spaniel’s owner bids me farewell and wishes me good luck (stifling guffaws) while I run around dementedly calling Cookie’s name so much, I’m hoarse within 10 minutes. A full 30 minutes goes by and there’s still no sign of him.

I’m frantic by this point and wondering how I’m going to tell the kids I’ve lost their dog, when a pained howl rings out and I tear off towards a nearby giant fence.

There’s barbed wire at the top of the 12ft fence and Cookie’s going berserk behind it, yelping and mewling.

“Cookie, you big — are you hurt? Stay there! I’ll find a way in and I’ll get you out in no time!”

It feels like I’m in an old episode of Skippy or something and any minute now, he’ll calmly point his paw to a hole in the fence. But all he does is yowl again, his tail wagging like a windscreen wiper on high.

I can’t find a hole, but one of my daughter’s friends lives on this path, so I whip out my phone (tucked in that ever-useful bra strap) and call her mum.

Seconds later, her whole extended family arrive at the scene, just as I’m tugging at the fence’s loose ends.

And then an army of people and their dogs descend upon us.

“Somebody call the fire brigade!” Shouts one.

“Will wire cutters be strong enough?” Wonders another.

“Whose stupid dog is that?” Some insensitive soul mutters.

I ignore them and somehow manage to unweave one wire from the bottom until there’s space just about big enough for Cookie to come charging through.

Which he does, leaping on to the cheering crowd and licking their faces off.

He’s completely covered in millions of tiny burrs — literally ears to paw — and as I snap the lead on to him, I realise that getting them out of his feathery fur is going to take hours. Days, even. The whole kid-free, me-time, lie-in-the-bath-for-hours-and-read weekend.

But that’s another story...

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