Donald MacInnes: Myrtle made me a barterer but I'd have done it for nothing

In the Red

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The Independent Online

I have been called a lot of bad names (a good proportion being the result of columns I have written in this newspaper). But while you could call me a lot of things, "barterer" is not usually a word which is thrown my way too often.

I've certainly been described as something which sounds like this, but leaving aside questions of my parentage, my acceptance of alternative methods of payment for my endeavours has, thus far in my life, been limited.

If I had to place a value on a week of my time, using goods and services rather than actual fiscal remuneration, I would probably struggle. I'm used to getting paid in cash money, not a hundredweight of pork scratchings or a new set of tyres. However, this was not the case last week, when my girlfriend and I agreed to dog-sit for a friend while she was on holiday.

In exchange for spending a week picking up dog poo and being forced to stride through fields of cow pats and sheep splats in order to throw balls around for it to chase, we got the keys to our friend's lovely cottage in the Cotswolds. Open fire, lovely garden, rolling vista; bliss.

However, please don't tell anyone, but it was all a cunning ruse. I would have done it for nothing.

As I spend much of my life wishing forlornly that I could have a dog, I don't regard the aforementioned picking up of freshly laid pooch doo-doo as being a downside. I mean, I use a plastic bag, of course… I'm not crazy, but if that means I get to run around a field with a panting Irish terrier called Myrtle, I'm a happy man.

Truth be told, if we had been forced to live in a caravan in the back garden for the whole week, you would have heard few complaints from us. And I include my girlfriend in that, purely because she underwent a spectacular transformation during the week. Having arrived in the Cotswolds a reasonably dog-averse cat-person, such was the impact of the lovely Myrtle, that at the end of the week, she was more than a little tearful to say goodbye to our waggy, ginger pal.

Sitting in front of a roaring log fire with a warm body on your lap is medicine of the finest kind. It can make you feel good in the hardest circumstances. And what's more, it's totally untaxed. No national insurance to pay, either. You get 100 per cent of the good feeling. All you need to do is make sure you've always got some treats in your pocket and a ball for her to chase.

The dog, that is, not my girlfriend…

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