I’ve got a theme going here. Cedric has morphed from chief dog walker to chief cuddlier. And I’ve become chief dog walker and chief poop reporter. We have turned into the quintessential canine hover parents – something I swore would never happen. In Nairobi, the house next door was owned by the American embassy and my parents always befriended the neighbors and even stayed in touch with several of them when they left after their tours of duty. I was great friends with the daughter of one couple – we were the same age and went to the same school. Her mother was very glamorous and there was a full-length portrait of her in their entrance hall. The word on the street was her father was CIA and everyone said to be careful because they thought the house was bugged. I’m not sure I understood, but it sounded very exciting. Another couple arrived for their tour with two poodles. This was the first time I’d seen dogs treated like children. We always had dogs, starting with Blackie, a daschund when I was probably no more than 4 or 5. We loved our dogs and treated them well. They were allowed in the house but slept in the kitchen. Dog treats back then, in Nairobi anyway, were one brand – Vetzyme, yeast tablets in a glass jar with a green lid. Dogs got one, maybe two, each day and a cookie before they went to bed and I’m sure they were people cookies and not dog bikkies. Fast forward to today. Savannah has a whole shelf in the kitchen with assorted dog treats depending on the time of day and whether she’s been a particularly good girl. This dog goes from treat to treat. Every day is Christmas for Savannah. And in Cedric’s closet, another shelf hosts more treats in case – perish the thought – we run out of her favorite. But back to the American poodles. They were coddled and cosseted and dressed up and fussed over and talked to like children and I remember thinking I would never treat a dog like a child – ha ha!
Blackie was followed by various other dogs including a smooth haired fox terrier called BP, named for Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts. My parents adopted BP from some people leaving the area. BP is the only dog I have ever hated. He was mean and he hated me back. One day, he buried a small stuffed dog that my parents gave me when I had my tonsils out and I loved that little toy. My mother salvaged him and cleaned him up but his tail didn’t survive. I still have that stuffed dog. I also had a glossy, black pet rabbit called Flicka. One day, I wanted to give her cage a good clean. I put Flicka in a temporary box while her cage dried. My parents had to gently break the news that Flicka had escaped her box and run away. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that my mother let slip one day that BP had got her. Even typing this, I can feel my blood pressure rise with hatred! BP was a pedigree, though, and my mother showed him at the local dog show, using hair spray to make the hair on the end of his tail stand up straight and talcum powder to whiten a couple of dingy patches. My parents were very involved with dog shows and I even won the children’s handling class at one show. But BP colored my feelings for smooth haired fox terriers and they remain my least favorite breed.
But back to the theme – I can’t believe that every time I come back from walking Savannah, I actually give Cedric a complete breakdown of her business. How sad is that? Before I retire this theme, here’s an interesting fact – an estimated 1,000 tons of dog poop is produced by Britain’s 8 million dogs every day, according to the Keep Britain Tidy group. They are concerned that owners pick up the poop in plastic bags and when they can’t find a garbage bin, they dump the bags, which is bad for the environment. The Forestry Commission has produced a poem in an attempt to spread the message about the stick and flick method. I’m not kidding – please read on. It includes the lines, “If your dog should do a plop, take a while and make a stop. Just find a stick and flick it wide into the undergrowth at the side. If your dog should do a do, you don’t want it on your shoe, find a stick, pick a spot, flick into the bushes so it can rot.” Several times a day, I hear myself say, “Only in America.” Today, it’s, “Only in England.” Woof.