Trudy Tyler is WFH

I didn’t want to, but I fell in love with my boss’s dog

Trudy Tyler would have preferred to house-sit for her boss, but she’d have to settle with just looking after her dog, Bear. By Christine Manby

Sunday 08 August 2021 21:30 BST
(Illustration by Tom Ford)

My boss Bella has joined the “staycation” exodus west (I know, I know: a “staycation” should mean you are literally staying at home, right?), which is why I am writing this under the watchful gaze of two sets of small brown eyes. One set belongs to Minky the hamster, who inadvertently became my hamster when I looked after her while Bella was stuck in the Caribbean over New Year. The other set belongs to Bear, the miniature cockapoo Bella bought during this year’s endlessly grey spring lockdown.

Bella knows I love dogs – I’ve cooed over Bear when he’s made appearances at company zoom meetings – so I suppose I was the obvious person to call when the sitter she had booked to look after her house and Bear while she took her family to Padstow, announced that she’d had a better offer. A whole grand a week better to be precise.

I wondered if Bella was about to offer me what she would have paid the dog-sitter to get her out of her fix. Of course not. As far as she was concerned, I was already on staff. But I did quite fancy house-sitting for her. Bella has a garden big enough for trees and a hammock. I allowed myself to imagine that I could get a staycation of my own out of Bella’s desperate need for dog care. But no.

“The house will be fine. My cleaner has said she’ll come in every day while I’m gone, but she will not have anything to do with the dog. Not since he chewed her Radley handbag. I bought her a new one but she won’t let it go. Bear really is an absolute dream of a puppy. He’s more or less house-trained. He can go all night if you get up at five to let him out.”

I spent the rest of the day hating myself for not having told Bella that I didn’t want to dog-sit after all, but when she turned up with him the following morning, dropping Bear off with a bottle of cheap fizz to sweeten the deal, I was instantly smitten. When I bent down to greet him, he hurled himself at me with great enthusiasm. I may have ended up tumbling onto my backside, but I was ready to forgive him anything. I was in love.

“Don’t give him too many treats,” Bella warned me as she clambered back into her Range Rover. I already knew that Bear was going to get exactly as many treats as he wanted.

Brenda, who had been watching from across the street, came over to meet my new house guest. “I’m more of a cat person myself,” she said. A minute later, she was sitting on my doorstep alongside me with Bear upon her lap. “If you need some help looking after him…”

We were joined moments later by Glenn the postie, my erstwhile crush. He too thought Bear was the bee’s knees and insisted that I bring him along to his “going away party” at the pub on Saturday night. Glenn is moving to Devon.

I have always loved dogs but have not had one of my own since childhood. My ex-husband was allergic to anything cute and fluffy and now I live in a terraced house with a “garden” that is really only big enough for a couple of bins. There’s lots of green space nearby, but I’ve always worried about dog theft. Long before the local scrotes turned to the lucrative business of pinching pedigree puppies, you would often see “missing dog” posters on the common featuring rescue Staffies, which you knew hadn’t been stolen for their looks. Thus, when I took Bear for our first walk together, I kept him on his lead and found myself scanning the park like a protection officer in charge of a minor royal.

A sanity stroll with a puppy is entirely different from one without. For a start, there’s not much sanity. Bear dragged me across Clapham Common like Geoff Capes pulling a double-decker bus. There was not another dog he didn’t want to greet and I soon found myself wrapped up like a maypole by Bear, an angry chihuahua and an enormous wolfhound/St Bernard cross.

In order to disentangle myself, I had to unclip Bear’s lead from his harness. I freed my legs and clipped the lead back on again, only to discover that I was now in charge of the Hound of the Baskervilles and Bear was legging it in the direction of the tennis courts.

“Stop!” I yelled.

Bear was a hundred-metre sprint away before a man dressed in Lycra grabbed him by the harness and lifted him up.

“Put that dog down!” I screamed. When the Lycra clad chap did not let go of Bear, I did the only thing I could think of and yelled, “Dog thief!” at the top of my voice. Immediately, every dog owner on the Common was on the case.

“I was just holding onto him so he didn’t run into the road,” the Lycra man tried to explain when he found himself surrounded.

“Yeah, right. We’ve heard that before,” said a professional dog walker, who was taking pictures to put on social media. “Is this the man you saw trying to steal your dog last week, Jill?”

Jill wasn’t sure but she wasn’t about to let that get in the way of a good ruckus. While the Lycra man continued to protest his innocence, I clipped Bear’s lead back on and snuck away.

“I don’t want to steal any of your dogs!” he wailed in despair. “I don’t even agree with having pets.”

That last was probably the wrong thing to say. I kept my head down and kept walking in the direction of home.

On Saturday, as requested, I took Bear to Glenn’s leaving party at our local. Once I had a glass of wine in my hand, Glenn beckoned for me and Bear to follow him to the other end of the beer garden.

“Let me introduce you to that friend of mine. The one who was supposed to meet us at FriendsFest.”

I quickly floofed up my hair. You never know.

Alas, Glenn’s friend was the jogger/unfortunate Good Samaritan from the Common. Bear didn’t seem to recognise him – perhaps it was because he was out of his Lycra – but he certainly recognised Bear. And me.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in