It is three years ago this month I decided to bring a dog into my life. Apart from the odd pat on the head, I have never really been much of a dog person if I am honest, but I needed something to break up long days of working alone at home before insanity overwhelmed me.
Of course, at the time of purchase, I was warned by many well-meaning dog types about the pitfalls of ownership and I did have grave concerns about how to turn a plastic bag inside out whilst simultaneously picking up a turd. However, I soon learnt as I did with regards to breath holding near a dog turd bin.
Most of the other dire warnings I received came to little as dogs also learn quickly and unlike virtually every other pet I can think of, they are desperate to impress their owner. Mine even tilts its head to one side to pretend it understands when I say something like “I am just going to put some washing in and have a cup of tea, then we will go for a W”.
I have to say ‘W’ now, because if I say ‘walk’ he proceeds to do celebratory laps of the house at full tilt until I take him out.
So anyway, the best thing I have experienced about dog ownership is how I deal with autumn and the short days that come with it. I have spent long periods of my adult years dreading autumn as it would fill me with negative thoughts and a sense of doom about the approaching winter.
I guess you have all heard of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which is also known as winter depression that is often attributed to suicide in Scandinavian countries.
According to the NHS, SAD is most likely linked to lack of sunlight stopping a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which in turn may affect the production of serotonin, the hormone that in affect, produces happy cells.
It stands to reason then, that if you choose to sit in doors with the heating on because you are too depressed by the weather to bother going out, you are entering a self-inflicted, self-fulfilling, black hole for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
I got so bad a few years back that when the sun was setting on a late September Sunday evening on the last day of our cricket season, I thought I was going to burst into tears. The thought of spending the next six months indoors was too much to take.
Getting a dog changed all that almost at an instant. Suddenly, there is no excuse to stay indoors and wallow in self-pity, you have to get out there and get on with it. Before long, my seasonal sadness dissipated into nothing and the seasons became a sense of enjoyment.
As a dog walker, you see the first swallow of spring, the first brown leaf of autumn, the sudden bloom of summer and the white morning frosts and the deep blue sky of winter. You smell the first grass cut of spring, the rain on a dusty surface after a long dry spell in summer and the distant waft of chimneys in the winter.
Getting that little bugger has had an extraordinary transformation on me and it only saddens me that when I am 54 in three years’ time, my dog will already be overtaking me in age. It seems a shame that something so happy has such a short time to enjoy itself.
However, if there is one warning for you if you are about to get a dog like mine it is this. Cocker Spaniels are brought into families because they are very friendly, great around kids and old people and of course, they are fantastic entertainment.
However, they love pheasants as that is what they are bred for; they are working dogs with a nose for trouble. This means that due to the greed of pheasant keepers, you must be careful where you take them in the autumn and winter months. During this period the odds of my dog dying at a ripe old age shorten to the following.
3/1 Run over chasing a pheasant
4/1 Stolen whilst chasing a pheasant
6/1 Shot by a bloodthirsty gamekeeper chasing a pheasant
8/1 Dying of exhaustion chasing a pheasant
10/1 Misjudging the distance between trees whilst running with a stick
I wont bleat on about pheasants too much as I have done on numerous occasions before, but I must take this opportunity to confirm that they are wankers and so are the owners who let 30 million of the bastard things out every year.
There is no control over them, so they just stray onto public land causing chaos to biodiversity, panic amongst dog owners and accidents on country lanes as drivers instinctively swerve out of the way of brainless pricks. Countryside Alliance? You’re having a laugh, these things are wrecking the countryside.
If you see one on the road, just run the twat over, it’s not meant to be there, it is meant to be shot but because so many of them are released in act of unadulterated greed, millions of bastard things escape onto public land where they shouldn’t be.
Apart from that, if you feel a sense of doom as the shorter days draw in, get a dog, you will feel 50% better in a matter of weeks. I can guarantee it.
Have a nice weekend.