When my wife announced that we would be looking after a dog for five weeks, she tried to sweeten the news by promising that my involvement would be limited to the occasional stroll around the block. Like a fool I reluctantly agreed.
However things didn't quite turn out as I'd hoped. News travelled around the Lewes grapevine that there was a family who looked after dogs for free and before long we were joined by a second terrier - a neurotic Jack Russell that would only sleep with humans. I wasn't happy, but decided to try and put a brave face on things.
Then my wife developed pneumonia and I suddenly found myself in charge of a household of feral children and incontinent dogs. At this point something snapped.
I didn't mind the cooking and cleaning. I'd even resigned myself to the long walks and the dog poo. But after a day of being an überfather, I felt that I'd earned the right to a decent night's sleep. Sadly, Poppy the Jack Russell had other ideas, howling, barking and scratching at doors as soon as it was bedtime.
After two sleepless nights I felt a deep, primordial rage at Poppy. When, just before lunchtime, Poppy and I were alone in the dining room, I decided to vent my frustrations:
"Look, you ******* ****, we don't even want you here. You're a ******* ***** ** *** **** and I can't wait until you go. I never want to see you again, you ******* annoying, neurotic canine ****"
The rant was cathartic and Poppy was blissfully oblivious to my sentiments. It was a win-win situation.
Then the door swung open and my oldest son walked up to his laptop:
"Hi! Are you still there?"
"Yeah. I've just been crafting an obsidian sword..."
At this point, I realised my son was in the middle of a Skype conversation and that my expletive-ridden diatribe against Poppy had been relayed to her owners in Scotland. Apparently the whole family were sitting around a table, listening to my obscenities.
It wasn't my finest moment, but on the plus side I don't think we'll have to worry about looking after Poppy again.
Maisy the border terrier will be with us for another week and although I can't say I've ever got used to the constant smell of overcooked peas, I will miss her when she's gone. She has, without exaggeration, transformed our lives and my older son seems happier than he has been for a long time. For that reason alone, I'm prepared to endure the grimmer aspects of dog ownership.
I know several people who say that owning a dog is almost like having a child. I always agree with them because I don't want to shatter their illusions, but I'm afraid that owning a dog is nothing like having a child.
If only children were content to sit in a basket for hours, occasionally requesting a brief tummy tickle or a walk around the block.
A month ago, my oldest son was the only dog lover in the house. My wife was indifferent, I was hostile and our youngest son was terrified. In the space of four weeks, Maisy has won us all over. When I tried to explain to our six-year-old that he needed to wash his hands because Maisy was a magnet for bugs, he was indignant: "No she isn't! She's a magnet for love".
Before they left for their five-week holiday in France, Maisy's owners said that they were going to arrange for her to have puppies in the autumn. With any luck, a mini-Maisy will be with us by Christmas.