JEN­NIFER O’CON­NELL

Dogs with In­sta­gram ac­counts? I blame the pawrents

The Irish Times Magazine - - INSIDE -

Years ago, a col­league in­tro­duced me to the con­cept of a Spring­steen clause. Ev­ery­one in a com­mit­ted re­la­tion­ship should have a Spring­steen clause, he said: a no- reper­cus­sions, no- ques­tions- asked night off that can be in­voked in the event you find your­self in a ran­dom and un­likely en­counter with somebody fa­mous and de­sir­able.

What would con­sti­tute a ran­dom and un­likely en­counter? Could you buy tick­ets to a Spring­steen con­cert and then pay ex­tra for a back­stage pass, I won­dered. No, he said firmly. You’d have to, for ex­am­ple, end up sit­ting in the seat be­side Bruce Spring­steen on a plane, but the plane gets grounded, and you all get to spend the night in an ex­pen­sive ho­tel, and later in the bar, he asks if you want a drink, and or­ders you a gin martini in a Tom Collins glass . . . I stopped him there, si­mul­ta­ne­ously im­pressed and alarmed by how much thought had gone into this.

I went home and im­me­di­ately filed a Spring­steen clause re­quest for Nick Hewitt from the UK Ap­pren­tice. I have no in­ter­est in Spring­steen mu­si­cally or other­wise, but I do have a weakness for stern­ish, older men. When my hus­band stopped laugh­ing, he bagged Nigella Law­son, so – be­ing ever so slightly competitive – I up­graded to Ge­orge Clooney.

Clooney re­mained my Spring­steen clause un­til the mo­ment ex­actly 10 days ago when I was read­ing the Vogue magazine cover in­ter­view with Amal Clooney, in which she made an un­set­tling ad­mis­sion. When Ge­orge was woo­ing her, he would write her lots of amus­ing emails in the voice of his cocker spaniel, Ein­stein.

I briefly hoped it was one of those imp­ish pranks for which Clooney en­sures he is well known, but alas, no. “I would write let­ters from Ein­stein to her, you know, say­ing ‘ I’m be­ing held hostage, and I need a lawyer to get me out of the room,’” he said.

Not that this is a mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor, but Clooney is not alone in this habit. Giving your dog a hu­man per­son­al­ity – usu­ally an an­noy­ing hu­man per­son­al­ity, pitched some­where be­tween a lov­ing, needy pre­teen and a dad- jok­ing taxi driver – is a thing. A grow­ing thing. Sur­veys re­veal that one in four pet own­ers now signs a Christ­mas card from “Marie, Sean, the kids and Bis­cuits”, or “Kev, Lisa and The Rt Hon Lord Nip­ples”. I do like dogs – just not enough that I want to be on the re­ceiv­ing end of greet­ing cards au­thored by hu­mans pre­tend­ing to be one.

A more re­cent vari­a­tion on this – one em­braced most en­thu­si­as­ti­cally by women around my age, whose hu­man chil­dren have got to the stage where they are be­gin­ning to re­sist all pub­lic al­lu­sions to the fact that they do in­deed have a mother – is to give your pet an In­sta­gram ac­count.

These women have of­ten come re­luc­tantly to dog own­er­ship, bad­gered into ac­quir­ing one – the clas­sic slob­ber­ing Labrador or bound­ing spaniel; a sen­si­ble, pho­to­genic, hy­poal­ler­genic, hy­gienic mix of a poo­dle and some­thing else; or a res­cue dog of in­de­ter­mi­nate ori­gin, with pe­cu­liar per­son­al­ity tics – by the chil­dren, who swore they would take it for walks and train it to do tricks with the help of YouTube. It’ll be good for them, my friends even­tu­ally de­cide. Teach them re­spon­si­bil­ity and how to rid var­i­ous types of sur­faces of foul- smelling sub­stances.

But then the dog ar­rives, and proves to be slower on the up­take than sug­gested by YouTube. The promised clean­ing up af­ter the dog hap­pens once, be­fore the chil­dren de­cide car­ry­ing poo bags is em­bar­rass­ing. And so my friends – who find them­selves re­luc­tantly thrust back into the fa­mil­iar front­line of car­ing for small, messy, ir­ra­tional, lov­ing crea­tures – de­ploy the per­fect re­venge: they give the dog an In­sta­gram ac­count. To help it in its new career as a so­cial in­flu­encer, they fur­nish it with accessories and a rich in­ner life that in­cludes a neat line in ca­nine puns.

As a re­sult of this ap­par­ently grow­ing phe­nom­e­non, the hand­ful of In­sta­dogs I now fol­low in­cludes a so­phis­ti­cated French bull­dog, a sweet sheepadoo­dle and a tiny mixed- breed “fur baby”, who travels in hand­bags and likes wine bars. I know more about the dogs – their groom­ing habits, their out­ings, their bur­geon­ing friend­ships – than I do these days about their own­ers. From the dog, I glean what I can about what “the woman”/ “my hu­man”/ “the pawrents” are up to, but mostly, it’s all about the dog.

I’m not much of a dog per­son, but I do love these peo­ple who love their dogs. And ap­par­ently, the dogs love them back. They gaze into one an­other’s eyes and go on ad­ven­tures to­gether and share in- jokes, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously mor­ti­fy­ing the chil­dren. It’s the re­la­tion­ship that has ev­ery­thing. So de­spite my firm and un­yield­ing be­lief that hu­mans, even hu­mans as flaw­less in ev­ery other way as Ge­orge Clooney, pre­tend­ing to be dogs is al­ways wrong, I have grown fond of these In­sta­dogs and their minia­ture sweaters and the ter­ri­ble, cheesy puns. ( You should have car­ried the damn poo bags, kids.)

Giving your dog a hu­man per­son­al­ity – usu­ally an an­noy­ing hu­man per­son­al­ity – is a thing

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