Karen Kay: A dog would have been a good idea...
PUBLISHED: 16:32 21 March 2016 | UPDATED: 16:32 21 March 2016
She’s a lavatory attendant and housekeeper, so if the job title has to be ‘dogsbody’ perhaps it’s time to go for walkies and forget the ironing
You might remember me starting to succumb to my daughter’s pleas for a pet. Despite reservations about the ties entailed in introducing an addition to our family, I recognised the benefits for an only child obsessed with animals would be enormous. Yes, I caved in.
After hours online and questioning of friends (I never make an ill-informed decision of such life-changing proportions), we found a local breeder of mini lop rabbits, and on our daughter’s seventh birthday she became the proud owner of a pair of two month-old brother and sister bunnies.
We were all besotted with our new fluffy friends, small enough to cup in hands and melting our hearts every time they washed their faces with their paws. I began to think I’d been unbelievably cold-hearted in resisting pets for so long.
But as I digested pages and pages of literature, listing the dos and don’ts of caring for them, the reality of what we’d done hit home. Who knew that just picking the right salad leaves to feed your bunny was so complicated? I was issued with a crib sheet of allowable fruit, veg and leaves, with a large panel of banned foodstuffs. I now diligently check this every time I consider sharing greens I’ve bought for our supper, in case I poison the little critters. Can you imagine? “Sorry, darling, mama killed your bunnies with a lettuce.”
It transpires that vets are expensive, too. It makes sense, really. They train for a lifetime, learning all about the physiology of everything from hamsters to horses. So it was that our £80 outlay on the rabbits generated veterinary invoices of five times that, once we’d neutered them and vaccinated them against everything except death. We took out a second mortgage to set them up in stately comfort, with plenty of square footage to kick their little back legs behind them as they hopped to their hearts’ content.
Then came the poo. A positive production line of little round pellets. How did these tiny beings create so much MESS? A litter tray in their two storey palace seems to have a 50:50 hit rate. The rest just blend with the shavings that I spread neatly each day, allegedly as bedding, but in reality it’s one vast toilet, ready for me to clear up each morning.
There’s now an in-joke at our house, whereby my husband and I mutter “should’ve got a dog” under our breath as we dutifully clean out our furry friends’ home on a daily basis. You see, I need more exercise. I vowed to get out and walk every day, whatever the weather. Health guidelines suggest we should do a minimum of 10,000 steps a day. As someone who works from home, I’m lucky if I reach a tenth of that. And I really struggle to justify leaving my desk for a brisk stroll around the lanes and footpaths when I’ve got a gazillion deadlines staring me in the face and a pile of ironing.
A dog would have been a good idea. We’d have still enjoyed all the benefits of pet ownership, teaching our daughter about caring for another being (yeah, right, that novelty quickly wore off), with all the advantages of regular walks. You can’t not walk a dog, right? It’s a great excuse not to do the ironing, because the dog’s welfare is more important.
And then there’s the idea that dog-walking would be good bonding time with my daughter, a chance to talk through the issues of the day. There’s nothing like a big open sky and a footpath stretching out ahead to start a conversation. We could enjoy the wildlife around us: appreciate the red kites that swoop around the fields, and the muntjack deer that roam the land.
Is it too late to get a dog? I’m thinking it might be a good idea. But I fear it won’t happen now, because I spend so much time cleaning out the rabbits and their incessant poo production, I can’t walk a dog as well. How would I find time to earn a living? How would I find time to help my daughter with her homework portfolio? (and by the way, that seemingly endless list of ‘home learning’ is a great excuse for her not being responsible for mucking out her bunnies’ bijoux duplex). And the ironing would NEVER get done.
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