The Independent

Editorial Page

July 11, 1990


My Week: A woman's best friends


Emily Green on thetrials and tribulations of canine adoption




WEDNESDAY The Dog'sHome, Battersea, was offering a twofer: two dogs for the price of one. Everyonewanted Harry, a galumphing collie-lab mix; nobody wanted his taut, greyinglittle mutt pal, Spike. They couldn't be separated, said Lorraine, a kennelattendant. They had been found together, probably brought up together. Theywould pine.


They were pining allright - to get out of the place. They had shared a four-by-six-footcement-floored cage since April. I wanted out, too. I had gone in search of onedog, not two grubby beasts laying siege to a south London fence.


Lorraine ushered usinto a ''visiting room'', where Spike promptly peed. ''You may have a fewaccidents,'' she said. My escort, a doting dog-owner himself, had Harrysprawled on his back, luxuriating in a tummy rub. ''I'll take them,'' a voicesaid. It sounded like mine. ''I'll pick them up Saturday.''


THURSDAY The storymade diverting chat. I felt virtuous.


FRIDAY Panic set in.Two dogs may be better than none, but the deal negated my earlierwheeler-dealing around the office for permission to bring a dog in. Two wouldbe chaos. Chickening out was an option, but too dishonourable.


SATURDAY Arrivedhungover but promptly at Battersea. Lorraine was relieved, having only halfexpected me to show up. Perhaps as a result they had only primped Spike with adisinfecting freedom bath. Then came the electronic tagging of both dogs, byinserting microchips into their necks from which they could be identified ifever picked up stray. This is a private, fallible network. I rarely agree withthe House of Lords; however, I look forward to Harry and Spike's integrationinto a national registration scheme, so they can get lost anywhere.


Some gear was inorder, so I bought a pair of extendable leads and a set of short leads withmatching collars. Last came two shiny tags bearing my name, address and phonenumber.


They don't use thedogs' names, the engraver said as we attached the tags. Dog snatchers couldthen woo them by name. This was not an immediate danger. The dogs had beendubbed Spike and Harry by the Dog's Home, but neither answered when called.


Much time was given tomusing about their past, but it was clear they had been lost or abandoned. Bothwere domesticated, and better trained than many a pampered pet. Neither fouledthe house. Both heeled, sat, showed paws and got off couches on command.


SUNDAY The morningbegan with the first of repeated training sessions, instruction booklet tohand. Don't be afraid to bribe, says the book. Spike now equates his name with''biscuit''.


The afternoon wasglorious, too sunny and invigorating to heed Lorraine's advice to keep them onleads for six weeks. A romp in Kensington Gardens went off without a hitchuntil Harry sniffed out a rottweiler. If a rottweiler owner tells you to reachinto a sniff session between his dog and yours, don't do it. My fear panickedthe dogs. Harry, the idiot, quarrelled and the rottweiler was instantly wavinghim around like a feather duster. Spike avoided the fray, mounting therottweiler owner's second dog, an Alsatian. Great - I had adopted a sex fiendand a moron. The dogs were finally parted - Harry only slightly bloodied.


MONDAY A dog-trainerfriend advised that if a rottweiler sets on your dog, prod a stick up its bum.A more urgent dilemma than figuring out how to goose a rottweiler was what todo with Spike and Harry all day. I left work early, but felt guilty. The answerwas a dog-walker. Salvation came in the form of a local student who misses herfamily dog back in Colombia. She came straight away to meet the dogs, get thekeys and learn where the can-opener lives.


TUESDAY: KensingtonGardens were almost empty at 7 am. Six weeks still seemed too severe, so I tookHarry and Spike off the leads again. The boys were estatic: it was a regularrabbit chasing dream, but it was real. Then they were off like a shot after ajogger and his two Alsatians. This new dog owner hollered for them, and theycame back. They knew their names. They knew their owner.


Copyright 1990Newspaper Publishing PLC.