‘Aaaawwwww that must be lovely, all the cutesome little animals!’ people inevitably drool when you tell them you’ve landed a summer job working for the local vet. Honestly, have you all lost any capacity for logical reasoning? Think about it – do you take Fido to the vet when he’s young, healthy and in fine fettle? No, you don’t. You haul him along there because he’s got diarrhoea or exotic parasites, or he’s taken to biting everyone he meets.
Certainly there is a liberal sprinkling of kittens and puppies, and these are indeed cute even if the puppies do have a tendency to wee on the floor in an excess of excitement. But their appeal is rather outweighed by the abundance of huge smelly hounds with matted fur and halitosis. Seriously, why would you think of keeping 50kg of incontinent rottweiler in the house? The stench in there must be worse than the zoo’s lion enclosure at cleaning time on a hot day in August.
If you really must keep an enormous hairy thing the size of a small bear, then possibly think about brushing him now and then. And I venture to suggest that he’d smell a bit less like something marinated for three weeks in rancid yak milk if you bathed him accasionally. Yes, I know hauling eight stone of reluctant Rover into the bath is no easy task. Getting the bugger onto the operating table when he’s out cold isn’t funny either, let me tell you.
Furthermore (and I know you don’t want to think about this, but it comes to all of us), when Fido reaches the end of his rich and varied existence and the vet releases him to gambol off into the afterlife, somebody has to get him into a big plastic sack and stash him in the freezer until he can be respectably cremated. That would be me then. And I can tell you that wrestling my own body weight in dead dog into a plastic bag is not easy, especially when he’s covered in wee. (Look, if you euthanase something half the size of a horse at a moment when he was just about thinking of going out for a tinkle, there’s going to be a lot of wee, all right?) Apart from any one of the many other considerations, it makes the bag slippery.
All of which has taught me that there’s far more to choosing a pet than just taking whichever mutt looks at you with the biggest eyes when you’re browsing in Pets ‘R’ Us. In fact, what I’ve mostly learned is that if you’re going to keep an animal at all, you’re probably best off giving the pet shop a miss altogether and shopping at the taxidermist. An ex-boyfriend once bought a house from someone who kept a stuffed Jack Russell on top of the piano, something which I thought strange at the time, but which I now fully understand.
But I accept that despite the clear advantages offered by a stuffed best friend, many people might feel that it lacks a certain something (though I bet there are others out there who even now are wondering how much it would cost to have their life partner stuffed and mounted in a glass case on top of the piano – I can see serious plus points in that arrangement as well).
The first thing to consider here has to be size. No matter how much of a ‘big softy’ that rottweiler is, the fact remains that he weighs nearly as much as you do, and if he decides to take off after something you’ll just have to hope that you didn’t wrap the leash round your wrist, because if you did you’ll be picking gravel out of your skin for months. He could also eat you if he decided he fancied the idea, which is rather worrying. Rule of thumb: do not keep aggressive household carnivores unless they are at most a quarter your size, and preferably a lot less. Reject the rotty and consider a chihuahua – I know they look ridiculous, but you have to admit they have comedy value.
Next, I’d look at hairiness. You thought people left hair in the plugholes? You should see how much loose fur there is lying around a vet clinic at the end of a day. You could make one of those ’70s Starsky and Hutch style cardigans out of it by the end of a week and still have enough left for a scarf and matching woolly hat. Share your house with one of those Bernese mountain hounds and it’s going to be all over carpets and furniture all of the time. You’ll be changing the hoover bag every two days. Short is good in the fur department. Bald could be better. Consider the attractions of a fish tank.
Finally, think about hygiene. While cats, being fastidious critters, can be left to get on with their own housetraining and will generally only wee on your bed when they wish to communicate displeasure, puppies take a lot of convincing before they get the idea that the world is not their toilet. So you might as well get rid of all your carpets straight off, because you’ll have to do it eventually and it will make mopping up easier in the meantime. Or entertain the idea of a gerbil, an animal which doesn’t wee at all. Ever. (Seriously – they live in the desert, can’t afford to waste the water. If they did wee they’d have to drink it, and how disgusting would that be?)
In summary, your ideal animal companion needs to be small, bald and continent. Ladies and gntlemen, I give you ……….. the perfect dog!
All right, he looks like a cross between Dobby and Gollum, and I can’t actually guarantee the continent part, but cross him with a gerbil and you could probably sort that out in a couple of generations. Result.