PHIL CALVERT: There’s no bond quite like that between man and dog

Phil Calvert
Phil Calvert

It is the same pretty much every morning.

I creep quietly out of bed, gather up my clothes, then slip through to the bathroom to weigh myself (nearly always bad news) and get dressed. Then across the dark landing, passing the rooms where our girls sleep. The odd grunt maybe, probably the odd discarded shoe to negotiate as I slip by, but generally all is at peace. All is quiet.

Descending the staircase, for years I had been greeted by the stirring form of old Rory at the bottom of the stairs, with first a beat of the tail on the floor, then hauling himself to his feet, an enthusiastic nuzzling of my hand with his snout, together with a vigorous wagging of his tail. There was no doubt about it. I was the centre of his life. He was greeting me and wanted to spend as much of his time with me as possible. There was a terrific bond between us.

Of course, like any dog, he loved going out for walks and swims, sniffing around in the woodland near our home, and generally doing what dogs like doing. But there was always that feeling if I wasn’t there the exercise would not have been enough. He wanted to share the experience as far as possible with me, his master.

Obviously I drew the line at fetching the stick or taking a dip in the Calder, but what he did he did as part of his time with me. As evening drew in, we would go home and, settling down after dinner, he would position himself behind my chair and contentedly snore away the hours until supper time. If I got up to make a brew, or answer the phone..whatever, he would be up next to me seeing what adventure we were about to set out on. He always seemed to be getting under my feet such was his devotion. He was a wonderful companion.

After he died, however, I did not rush into getting another dog because, with the best will in the world, they are a damned nuisance and very tying.

Dogs are dirt magnets. Across hill and dale, through streams and muddy fields, dogs blunder on regardless, intent on getting as much out of their time out as possible, and in so doing bring ample evidence of their day out home on their paws and fur. They shake themselves after they come indoors, they leave mucky pawprints everywhere, and in Rory’s case he discarded an entire skip full of fur around the house every day.

Where he slept there was a layer of dog hairs of quantities fit for harvesting. In the kitchen, little balls of fur would drift like tumbleweed in a western town, across the flag floor at the draught caused by the opening and closing of doors. When he shook himself clouds of hairs would be released into the atmosphere before slowly and silently drifting to the ground. A real nuisance!

But then in return for this nuisance value he gave back so much. In an otherwise empty house, you are never alone with a dog. Their devotion is pretty much unqualified. They are totally loyal too...unless there is the odd biscuit to cadge. And so in due course, I gave way to my feelings and I got another dog. Little Monty became a part of our family life.

In every repect, he is a superb replacement for old Rory and we have formed a strong bond but he does have some strange characteristics. When we leave the house he runs for the door. Out on walks, he never seems to stop running, and running hard. At dinner time, he rushes through to eat at the sound of his bowl being filled. Everything is done at the double. Everything that is except getting out of bed!

Nowadays when I am creeping quietly down the stairs there is no tail beating, no enthusiastic welcome. No urgent need to be fussed. No he is in the dining room. At my approach, he leaves it until the last possible moment to greet me, offering no more than a weak flick of the tail, often only when I outstretch my arms.

Even when he gets to his feet, he stretches luxuriantly rather like a cat before a brief wag of the tail then a fast paced rush to the back door to be let out into the garden. He doesn’t linger out there like Rory would either. He does the necessaries then straight back to the door to be let in and then it is an urgent sprint.....straight back to bed!

In the evenings, only a roaring fire that he can bake himself in front of, will coax him out of bed. He would rather be alone in the other room curled up in bed, which is a cushion from an old three-piece suite. He absolutely loves it. I even have to call the anti-social little beggar through to join us, otherwise he would prefer to stay on his tod in the other room, on his cushion.

When I come home from work or after a walk, his priority is to bound gleefully through to his cushion, and there he will happily stay. So there you have it. It is a sad reflection on the worth of your life when in the final analysis, it is a toss-up between me and a cushion, and the cushion has it.

It’s quite amusing really but I can’t help thinking old Rory wouldn’t approve. Mind you there are some compensations...there are a lot less dog hairs about than there used to be and with no snoring we don’t have to have the telly on quite so loud!