Jonathan Self gets some canine help
When John Muir said ‘Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much larger and better in every way’, was he correct? You must judge for yourself. My name is Darling Self, I am an english pointer and I was so named in order that Jonathan could make a lame ‘Don’t point, Darling, it’s rude’ joke every time he introduced me.
Many dogs have famous writer companions. One thinks of Turk (Charles Dickens), Pinka (Virginia Woolf), Pumpkin (bizarrely, Kurt Vonnegut), Tracie (Robert herrick), Carlo (Arthur Conan Doyle) and all the rest. I have Jonathan—one has to work with what one is given. After all, I could have been poor Twi Twi, Barbara Cartland’s Peke, or Spinee, the lugubrious lab who’s saddled with Dan Brown.
Since I came to this family as a puppy more than 12 years ago, one of my main duties has been to curl up quietly on the floor of Jonathan’s study while he prevaricates over writing this column—or, indeed, anything else with a deadline. Time and again, I have pleaded with him not to leave it until the last moment, but even his best friend and most loyal companion, which would have to be me, must admit that he’s incapable of any sort of advance planning.
Today, he’s been talking wildly. That is to say, he intends one of his wistful, outdoorsy, ‘featherfooted through the plashy fen passes the questing vole’ type columns. These, at least, are accurate. I’m afraid that any diary piece in which he portrays himself
‘Wednesday. I was on security detail. It’s a bit of a comedown from pointing’
as industrious, a man of the soil, a man of action or solidly practical, ought, strictly speaking, to be entitled ‘My Fictional Week’.
The reason Jonathan is finding it especially hard to settle to work at the moment is that he’s agitated about a long-running argument with a mobile-phone company called, so far as I can tell, Bloody Vodafone. Since last autumn, it has, without warning, been disconnecting his calls mid conversation and charging him for data he hasn’t used.
This morning, he was on to the company for more than an hour and, afterwards, he was so frustrated that, when I came over to comfort him, he threw a biscuit at me. It was an insult, but I swallowed it anyway. The poor chap can’t help himself and, as Peter Mayle’s dog, Boy, pointed out: ‘To err is human, to forgive, canine.’
NOW that I’ve got my teeth into his column, I may as well keep going. What of my week?
Sunday. I was taken to meet a cocker spaniel who is looking for somewhere new to live because his family is moving abroad. There was a sign on the gate: ‘Beware dog. he is very sarcastic.’ Many a true word is said in jest and I’m not entirely surprised they’re immigrating.
Monday. Jonathan accused me of chewing his best walking boots (which I did as a protest against the introduction of any new dogs into the household) and woke me up to give out about it, but Charlotte, who is turning into quite a wit, said: ‘Let lying dogs sleep.’
Tuesday. Oliver was caught feeding me from the table and argued that the home is being run on double standards, viz. humans can eat from the table, get on the furniture and so on, but dogs can’t. That boy is going to make a fantastic animal-rights lawyer one day.
Wednesday. I was on security detail. It’s a bit of a comedown from pointing, but I’m no snob and happily brought to heel the only stranger who called. She turned out to be a new neighbour visiting for tea and, after her wound had been dressed and she had given me a piece of cake, we became great friends and cuddled up together on the couch. I told her: ‘There’s no cure like the hair of the dog that bit you.’
Thursday. I found and rolled all over a dead fox. I knew, as I was doing it, that it would lead to a bath. At least, as I pointed out to Boris, the cat from next door, who made a remark, I have someone else to wash me and don’t have to do it for myself (unlike him).
Friday. Oliver learnt how to say ‘the dog ate my homework’ in Latin and spent the evening repeating canis studia domestici devoravit over and over until, I’m ashamed to admit, I snapped at him.
Saturday. Very late, I was forced in my defence to quote Lord Byron: ‘Tis sweet to hear the watchdog’s honest bark.’ Apparently Jonathan didn’t agree. ‘It is through suffering that dogs as well as saints are developed and made perfect.’ John Muir again. I definitely concur.
Jonathan Self is an author and raw dog-food maker (http://honeys realdogfood.com) who lives in Cork, Ireland.