When I was first trying to get into journalism, I was invited for an interview at Vogue. Naïvely, I arrived precisely on time, only to be handed a form which took ten minutes to fill in. The personnel manager then refused to see me on the grounds that I was ten minutes late – which is one reason I ended up as deputy editor of a rival magazine.
I was reminded of this incident last week, when I took Matty to see an acupuncturist. Her hind legs had started to give way, and though an acquaintance had suggested osteopathy, our vet thought that acupuncture would be better. But when we arrived, one of those dratted forms awaited us, containing no fewer than 160 questions. True, most of them required only ticks or one-word answers, but Matty doesn’t like vets’ surgeries at the best of times, and by the end of this preliminary she was pretty fed up.
The acupuncturist, when we eventually got to see him, was a likeable fellow, who told me that his own elderly dog had mental problems similar to Matty’s. He had been practising homeopathy for 30 years, and had been a regular vet for ten years before that. I learnt that the acupuncture points for dogs are the same as for humans, but the process is much quicker, because dogs have a much higher metabolism than we do. (Among other things, their body temperature is three degrees higher than ours.) So instead of half an hour, ten minutes will do.
This was all very interesting, but I was acutely aware of the fact that we were paying £180 for the consultation. ‘Cut to the chase!’ I muttered under my breath. ‘Get the needles out!’ At last he did so, deftly inserting ten of them – five on either side of her spine. Matty didn’t much enjoy the process, but once they were in she stopped complaining – and the next day she showed a marked improvement. She wasn’t entirely steady on her feet, but she toppled over much less frequently. Whether this actually makes her more cheerful is something that remains to be seen.
I was told that a follow-up session would cost £90. Alternatively, the vet could do a telephone consultation for £45. ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ I was tempted to say: ‘this dog is stone deaf!’ But I let the moment pass.
As the General Election approaches, I find myself wondering which party would get the canine vote if it existed. Let’s consider the options.
- Conservative Dogs are creatures of habit, which suggests an adherence to the status quo, and a food bank would be their idea of heaven. But as a senior citizen, Matty would worry about cuts to the NHS and social services.
- Labour Ed Miliband’s supposed resemblance to Wallace in the Wallace and Gromit cartoons is a strong recommendation as far as dogs are concerned. They are losing sleep, however, about the prospect of the mansion tax being applied to their kennels.
- Liberal Democrats Unfortunately Nick Clegg is perceived as a lame duck, and is therefore likely to be eaten for breakfast.
- UKIP The introduction of pet passports was a hugely exciting development for dogs – so distancing Britain from Europe would not play well with them. Nor would they have much sympathy for politicians so intolerant of French poodles and German shepherds.
- SNP A party which gives Scotties a disproportionate say in the running of the country would have the seat ripped out of its trousers by bulldogs and Irish wolfhounds.
- Green Party Dogs feel an instinctive liking for any human who is obviously in tune with the natural world. But a lot of Greens are vegetarians, and therefore have to be regarded with suspicion.
- DUP Unionism was long synonymous with a man in a dog collar, the late Dr Ian Paisley. Without him the party will find animal votes hard to attract.
- Sinn Fein Gerry Adams’s muckers refuse to take any of the seats they win. Our four-legged friends have little time for a dog in a manger.
A Spaniel Moment’s Prediction
A hung Parliament – preferably Aberdeen Angus, hung for 28 days and served on the bone.
This is Matty’s kennelmate, Pop. As you can see, she is not a dog like other dogs. In fact, she bears a remarkable resemblance to a character out of Dr Seuss.
Pop is above all an enthusiast. As a fellow traveller at Penrith Station remarked, ‘If I had a pound for every time that dog wags its tail, I’d be a rich man.’ She is also very friendly, particularly if she thinks you have food about your person, and is likely to jump into your lap in Scooby-Doo-like fashion. Her pedigree claims that she is a pure-bred Cocker spaniel, but her eccentric behaviour suggests that a springer gene may have infiltrated the blood line. Actually, judging from the shagginess of her coat, there could be some sheep or bear in there as well.
No great claims can be made for her intellect. She is a gung-ho chaser of tennis balls, but has not worked out that she needs to watch their flight in order to intercept them. Instead, she will gallop off in the general direction of where she thinks the ball might go, and is then very surprised when it doesn’t arrive.
We bought Pop as a puppy four years ago, partly in the hope of perking up Matty, then aged ten. To begin with, Matty was distinctly cheesed off, but she eventually softened, and is now only bad-tempered towards Pop at meals (see the Dinner Time post below). Pop, for her part, puts up with Matty’s crabbiness and becomes deeply jealous if any other dogs show an interest in her elderly companion. Her solution is to bounce up and down, barking as loudly as she can to monopolise Matty’s attention; but as Matty is deaf, this generally serves only to attract other dogs, making the whole process counter-productive. Occasionally, though, the bouncing has an effect, and the two will go careering off together – and for a precious moment Matty looks once more like the fun-loving animal she used to be.