My neighbours have a little dog called Mr Larkin and they asked me if I wanted to look after him while they went on holiday. I have been for many walks with him over the last two and a half years and he is used to me. I said I would be very happy to take up this challenge!
I have never owned a dog, only cats, so was I up for the task?
Quietly reflective on the first day
The first day, Mr Larkin was quieter than usual and did not want to eat his normal amount of food. I think he was a bit bewildered why all of his blankets, food bowls, toys, bed etc were in my house. The look above says it all! However, he soon settled in. His favourite place to sit in my lounge is on the arm of the settee. After a couple of walks, he soon became his usual inquisitive self and by the evening was ready to play 'find the wine cork.'
Looking for the wine cork
So how did we both manage?
Mr Larkin is used to sleeping upstairs with his owners. So the first night was a challenge. However, I am pleased to say that he stayed in his bed in the hall ALL night with only a couple of whimpers and I left the doors open so he could explore if necessary. Wow, I thought, this is going to be easy peasy!
The second day we went out for our walks and Mr Larkin began to eat a bit more and I spoilt him with a few more treats than I should have. He sat in my office upstairs and even on my knee some of the time!
When it was time for bed, he decided that the hall was not the place to sleep…..no matter what I did, he could not settle. So…. I moved his bed up to the landing. A result. He was a good dog and stayed there until 7am. This was how it ended up being for most of the remaining nights. Two nights however, he could not rest and ended up on my bed where he was VERY HAPPY and I was afraid to move!!
My first member of staff!
The following days and nights saw us both get into some sort of routine. An hour’s work on the website followed by his first walk. Then he would be up and down stairs letting me know how often someone walked past my house, but this was a good thing in my opinion. More often than not he would be in my office on the floor by my feet. After lunch we went for another walk and he would sometimes doze off for an hour when we returned. However he was always on high alert for strangers outside especially if they had a dog with them! Another walk after tea would be followed by a mad half hour of throwing a squeezy mouse toy up in the air for him to catch and then chase around the lounge.
Derek talking to Mr Larkin
Larkin settled down and came and sat by me on the settee
They say dogs cannot understand words that you say to them. I beg to differ. Mr Larkin knows the sentences 'I have to go to work.' 'Would you like a treat?' I know that commands are usually easily learnt by dogs and Mr Larkin is no exception. He is very well behaved at road junctions and when he needs to have his lead on. One thing I have learnt is that if I say the word 'harness', this indicates a walk is imminent and we spend ten minutes chasing each other round the house until he decides to let me put it on. This is then followed by wolfing down what food may be in his dish. Why I wonder? It happens every time.
Derek was made to sit elsewhere!
The only time Mr Larkin was a bit unsettled was when I went out to choir practice on three evenings and Derek was left in charge. On my return, he would woo woo woo (dog terminology for where the heck have you been???!!) and I thought his tail would fall off!
I'm home now from choir!
As the evenings passed, so Mr Larkin would sit on my knee. The below photo is one of us watching a DVD of Ralph Mctell. I interviewed Ralph in 2014 and am going to try and see if he would like another chat later this year. Mr Larkin seemed to enjoy watching! Here is the link should you wish to read about Ralph. Part 1 of 4.
Watching my favourite artist
Chris and Steve came back refreshed and were very happy that Mr Larkin and I shared a great time together. The welcome they received was a joy to witness.
Did I learn anything?
Yes, most definitely. Dogs like attention, dogs like to be fussed, dogs like routine, dogs will give back something that cats never do - adoration.
Will I now be having one of my own?
No I don’t think so as I like to think as long as Mr Larkin is on this earth, he treats me as a ‘member of the pack’ so I do in effect have a dog!
Animals need to be loved, especially dogs and I like to think that over the twelve days I have looked after this little pooch, he and I have an even greater understanding of each other.
As regards to who benefitted the most from this 'challenge', I like to think it was an equal status. Yes, Mr Larkin had treats, walks, playtime and lots of cuddles and so it was like having another 'small human' in the house. BUT, I had more exercise, more time away from the screen and more relaxation when he was on my knee or next to me during the evenings once playtime was over.