Wednesday 16 October 2019

Ian O'Doherty: 'Domestic chaos with rescue dogs - I wouldn't have it any other way'

Canine company: a litter of puppies in a cardboard box after they were surrendered to Dogs Trust. Photo by Fran Veale
Canine company: a litter of puppies in a cardboard box after they were surrendered to Dogs Trust. Photo by Fran Veale
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

These days, every day is a special day marking a special occasion. I have long suspected that this has been cooked up by a sinister cabal of rogue UN commissioners and the greeting card industry.

After all, on March 1, I proudly took part in International Zero Discrimination Day, which made me feel righteous and gave me moral license to discriminate as much as I want for the other 364 days of the year.

Later that month, I was proud to participate in International Day Of Solidarity With Detained And Missing Members Of Staff, in memory of a colleague who went to the pub and hadn't been seen in several days.

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I also celebrated International Mother Earth Day by burning a load of rubber and leaving the lights on all night - but that's because, like all Irish men, I have Mammy issues.

Maybe I'm not really getting the point of these 'International Days Of Whatever You're Having Yourself,' but Monday was International Dog Day, and that's one celebration I'm happy to dive into.

We've a remarkably high rate of dog ownership in this country, with nearly 50pc of Irish households boasting a pooch.

That figure would be even higher if it wasn't for the housing crisis, which has resulted in tens of thousands of wannabe dog owners denied the possibility of adopting a pet. That's not something mentioned in the overall statistics, but it's a frequently recurring theme from many people who just want to get a home and get a dog.

We'd be foolish to think that such a high rate of ownership means we are also a nation of dog lovers, however.

There's almost no point in delving back into that RTÉ documentary about the industrialised slaughter of greyhounds. After all, the details of that nauseating scandal will just ruin your Saturday. But even apart from that kind of commercialised barbarity, there are still thousands of dogs languishing in rescue shelters and pounds across the country, desperately waiting for adoption. Well, at least there are two dogs no longer waiting for a home, as this summer saw two new arrivals in O'Doherty Towers.

When my last dog, Sam, died 18 months ago, I swore I'd never get another one. The grief - and as any dog owner knows, it is a raw, searing grief - was simply too much.

But time, while not necessarily a healer, is undoubtedly a salve, and I've always thought a house without a dog isn't a home. So a few months ago, we adopted Belle, a 13-month-old bichon/Yorkie cross. And how very cross she is.

A gorgeous looking lump of fur and fun, she is also completely bonkers, prone to the occasional nip and extremely fond of barking - in other words, she's precisely the last kind of dog I would have chosen. But sometimes, you don't choose the dog, the dog chooses you.

It has been suggested to us that we should probably invest in a trainer for Hell's Belle - as she is known in the house - but, in truth, we'd probably be better served by an exorcist.

But that's not her fault. She's never had any discipline, has a curious mind and enough energy to power the national grid. Although she's a big chewer, so forget about odd socks, I was reduced to wearing odd shoes recently because they were the only ones that hadn't been gnawed to pieces.

What do you do with a dog that barks, drives you bloody mad and pays no attention? After all, I have a policy of not negotiating with terriers.

Why, you just get another dog, of course. Because sometimes one just isn't enough hassle.

So Jodie arrived into the house last Thursday, much to the annoyance of Belle. Well, I say annoyance, but what I really mean is fury. Or rage. Or a form of psychotic resentment.

Jodie, a remarkably placid and friendly cairn seemed to take it all in her stride, which, in turn, incensed Belle even more.

This, I thought, was an experiment doomed to failure. Granted, that thought occurred to me around 6am last Friday morning because Belle still hadn't calmed down and I still hadn't been to bed.

And then something wonderful happened; something which reminded me of why I was so desperate to have canine company once more - the pair of them began to play together. Not only did they start to play with each other, but they started sharing food and drinking from the same bowl - although they still tear strips off each other over who gets to eat the juiciest sandals.

In fact, they're becoming best mates.

Having a dog is the purest example of an emotional two-way street you can get. They make you laugh, you feed and walk them and both sides benefit enormously.

For the last year, the house has been quiet and spotless.

Now? Now you can barely walk across the floor because it's littered with their toys, chewed shoes and bits of dry food. The previous peace has been replaced by raucous barking and my futile pleas for them to calm down.

Yes, the place is messy, it will soon be smelling of dog and I am now sleeping on six inches of mattress because the two eejits have taken over my side of the bed.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

If you're going to get a dog, please get a rescue.

You won't regret it.

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