With a work trip to Detroit on the near horizon, I'm currently auditioning childcare for Betty, my 18-month-old labrador. If you're the sort of person flubbering your nostrils in derision right now at the term "childcare", you'll find yourself pencilled on to the "Not Suitable for Betty Childcare" list.
If you're the sort of person saying, "Can you not just plonk it in kennels?" then rest assured, I've noticed the verb "to plonk" with its willy-nilly abandonment connotations. It's a no for you, too. Kennels. Pssssht.
Will kennels fluff Betty's chocolate velveteen ears 22 times a day when she ambles up, body juddering with a joy that starts just behind her ears and goes all the way down to her otter tale? Will kennels tuck her in to bed with Pilchard, her Bob the Builder cat? Will they sing her the Betty go-to-sleep song "She's a Little Doggle" to the melody of the 1984 Phil Collins hit "Easy Lover"?
No, they will not, and for these idiotic reasons and many more, I've said no to foreign trips for the past 12 months. I did leave her when I went to work in Chicago for a few days last June, but in all honesty we found the Skype face-to-face challenging.
But I need to be mobile again, so now I'm vetting CVs for official dog nannies. The first man to apply was Korean, which sounds like the beginning of a Bernard Manning joke that I'd have to hand myself in to the police after re-telling. "I want you to know I love dogs," he wrote, "and have always owned them in a country with a less than – well – friendly attitude to our canine friends." He enclosed photos of himself feeding snack treats to a raffish-looking Jindo hunting dog. I liked this guy's swagger. He's on the "Maybe" pile for a first interview.
I can't tell you exactly what I'm looking for, but I'll know it when I see it. I need that specific sort of glassy-eyed, earnest pet person insanity that doesn't quite have a name. And it is insanity. Let's not even pretend pet people are sane. I share a dog-walking route with a woman who has bought and modified an ex-London hackney cab for the purposes of transporting her Staffordshire bull terriers. I know a man who spent £3,000 fitting a cat-flap into an electric garage door, which the cat then refused to use. When Clarke, my beloved ginger tom, died, I collected his ashes – yes, his ashes – dressed like a Vittorio De Sica widow. Pet people are mainly weirdos, but we are an excellent type of weirdo.
When, earlier this month, ex-Fifa official Chuck Blazer was connected to a laughable catalogue of financial skulduggery, bribery, racketeering and money laundering, I observed that he once rented two mega-luxury apartments in the Trump Tower in New York – one for him, one for his cats – and I thought, "Oh, this guy can't be ALL bad."
I wouldn't trust Chuck to invest my pension fund, but I'd probably trust him with Betty. Let's imagine how happy those cats were, warming their fat bellies in the sunnier spots of a glass-fronted multi-million pound condo. I bet they spent some smashing afternoons standing in the apartment window shouting furiously at Central Park pigeons.
My new dog-nanny will need to look after my two cats too, but let's be quite frank, cats aren't so much of a faff. I hate to break this to you if you believe otherwise, but you could leave Vlad the Impaler in charge of your cats – and as long as Vlad kept chucking down tuna and didn't do anything rash like vacuum during daylight hours, they'd not give a feck who they were.
The first time I needed to leave my most doleful, needy cat, Geno – imagine Morrissey, Hatful of Hollow era, but a tabby with whiskers – I fretted arduously about how he'd cope. "I am the only living being he has time for," I whined. "The house will be full of strange noises and smells. He'll run away! He'll be eaten by foxes. Eaten! I won't even get a corpse to bury! And it won't be missing him that will kill me but the not ever knowing!"
I should point out that with my pets, I tend to imagine worst-case scenarios.
I once called a 24-hour emergency vet to say I'd been watching Geno for eight hours and I was convinced he'd eaten a lily and was in the midst of full renal shutdown. The vet said – in a really gentle, roundabout way, but we both knew what he was saying – "Stop staring at your cat and go to bed you completely mad bitch."
So eventually I left the cat and went to America. Twenty-four hours later, I rang London from Manhattan to find the house-sitter in bed, reading. "Have you seen Geno?" I asked, faux-casual. "Oh yeah, he's here," she said. "He's under my arse." "Your arse?" I said. "Yeah, he won't leave me alone. He's under the duvet, behind my knees purring." The duplicitous little shit. Cat care is easy, dog-nannies are more difficult. But my CV pile is mounting, so the search very much continues.Reuse content