My Week

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Next week Joe Gibbs

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 re­al­dog­ who lives in Cork, Ire­land.

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