There’s one desire that a surprisingly large number of my friends and acquaintances have in common.
It’s not the usual lottery win/secure job/world peace wish (everyone wants those, after all), it’s something that, on the surface at least, seems much more attainable. It’s to have a pet dog. One friend is obsessed with getting a Whippet, one drools over pictures of Miniature Schnauzers online. Another will argue the merits of a chocolate Labrador until blue in the face.
I want a short-haired Dachshund who I’d call Banger. (As I type my cat is watching me closely. I think he suspects). But the cat, who I adore, is safe - I can’t get a dog because he might get attacked, because of the hours I work and because of the size of the flat I live in.
It’s the same (give or take the cat) for almost everyone I know who wants a dog. We endlessly talk about whether or not we could get a timeshare dog, could take one to the office - a nice idea in theory, but after the death of the resident dog, Alan, at Tatler magazine, after getting trapped in the revolving door, one that rightly sets health and safety alarms ringing - or whether retraining as a yoga teacher or a dry-stone wall builder would mean we could get a canine companion.
There’s even a website, borrowmydog.gy, that sets up would-be dog walkers with other peoples’ dogs. However, despite our schemes, none of us are in a position to take the pooch plunge because we’re time and space poor and it would be cruel.
The only person I know who could get a dog is my mother - and she’s unconvinced. I’ve started seriously campaigning, only partly selfishly, for her to get one. She has the time, the living space and the countryside a dog needs; walking it would provide great exercise and a way to meet people, and she’d have a companion who’d never answer back.
So far I’ve bought her a copy of the charming book “Diary of a Dog-Walker” by Edward Stourton (I notice there is no “Diary of a Cat-Herder”, not least because it would be full of blank pages because the cat had vanished on a 22-hour mammal-slaying mission), I’ve begged her to watch “The Secret Life of Dogs” on ITV and we spent Christmas leafing through the dog-breeds book, arguing about terriers (“I don’t like smooth dogs,” she says. “They have to be rufty tufty”). I’ve even offered to pay the vets bills.
She’s yet to weaken, but having totted up how many people I know who are desperate dog addicts, perhaps we could club together to get her one - she could send us newsletters about how it’s getting on, set it up a Facebook page. Bob’s your uncle, Fido’s our best friend. Come on Mum, throw us a bone.