There are lots of reasons to keep pets. Research says that sitting petting a dog or cat brings down stress levels and lowers blood pressure. There’s even a piece a research that says staring into your dog’s eyes causes a release of endorphin in both the owner and the dog, giving them both a feel-good high. I’ve tried it, and when I can persuade my little man to concentrate long enough it does seem to work. There’s also nothing like arriving home to an enthusiastic welcome – somebody loves me.
One of the main reasons I got Barnaby, a five-kilogram bundle of Maltese-poodle cross, was to make me get out walking. He likes his walks, but mainly to stop every few metres to sniff the recent pee-mails. Getting him to do a brisk walk for any distance is just about impossible. The only place I can do it is at the local park. I put him a on his extender lead and walk. He gets to sniff trees etc and then catch up, even then sometimes there are so many messages left around a tree trunk that it takes a while to pick up them all. It’s a constant battle.
The other problem is that he doesn’t like getting out of bed – did he get that from me? Most mornings when I get up he will stubbornly lie in bed until I am showered and dressed, opened the house up, got ready to walk and arrive in the bedroom with his lead. If I’m lucky he will manage to lift his tail and give a couple of wags. Once the lead is on he wakes up and is ready to go. Unless it’s cold or wet and the dreaded coat has come out. He hates his coat. I wish I had one – dry-as-a-bone covering and sheepskin lining. He sulks for ages once it’s on and regularly tries to shake it off during the walk.
He always knows the time. Dinnertime and bedtime are marked by him coming and reminding me to get on with it with a push of his nose to my leg, or if I ignore that a sharp bark. Visitors cannot get to the front door without him being there and letting me know. He’s also tries to be bossy and if I go away and leave him with my daughter and her dog I get a good barking at to tell me off when I come back.
One of the unexpected pleasures and health benefits of Barnaby is that he makes me laugh. Just walking behind him and seeing his back legs delicately hitting the floor, spread out as if he’s really constipated is enough to make me giggle. But when I come into the lounge and all his animal toys are lying on the floor, each with a biscuit either on their tummies or beside them, it’s good for a laugh out loud. If the toys don’t eat their food he will go up to each in turn and keep shoving the biscuit at them until he gives up and eats it himself.
Barnaby is definitely good for me. He even helps me write – he’s lying on the spare room bed now fast asleep. The thought’s there anyway.