I began thinking about getting a dog for safety reasons. I was spending an increasing amount of time in the church on my own, often in the dark, and had had a couple of encounters with people that had made me feel uncomfortable — and at times downright frightened. Someone said to me after evening prayer one night, ‘Have you ever considered getting a dog?’
No, I hadn’t up till then. I don’t particularly like dogs. The curate’s flat is on the second floor and I don’t have access to the garden, and yes, the previous curate had a dog, but do I really want to trek down and up those stairs more than I already do? Do I want to get up even earlier than I do now to walk around in the freezing wind and rain? Do I want to sacrifice my lie-in on my day off? And there’s Coleridge to consider. Poor Coleridge.
But then I started thinking more about it. My work-life balance is rubbish. My productivity often feels non-existent. I spend too much time tied to my computer. Or I find myself in meetings and on visits from morning prayer until evening prayer and then out again in the evenings. My lack of exercise (other than walking up and down 1000 stairs every day) is getting ridiculous.
In short, I have absolutely no self-discipline. And my current way of working is making me tired and cranky. I could spend a lot of money hiring a life-coach or psychotherapist to help me get to the root of my tendency to procrastinate and not take care of myself. Or … or I could get a dog.
Dogs are more demanding than cats (obviously). They have to be taken out to ‘do their business’ (regular breaks, hurrah!) and can’t be left on their own for hours on end (no more days where I’m out for 12 straight hours, woohoo!), and they need to be walked (exercise, yay!).
So I started researching dog breeds. And looking at the websites of the local animal shelters. And talking to people who have dogs. And finally I decided that a greyhound might be a good fit. They’re proper-sized dogs but are gentle, quiet and lazy. (Ok, they’re total wimps and not the best guard dogs, but the safety issues at church are fortunately being addressed by other means.)
Justin was a bit more hesitant. But after a lot of persuasion, and a lot of dropping random comments about dogs into casual conversation, I finally convinced him to come with me to the Edinburgh branch of the Retired Greyhound Trust. ‘They probably won’t even let us have a dog,’ I assured him. ‘We’ll let you walk Judy,’ they said within five minutes of us being there. ‘She’ll be perfect for you.’ Judy walked past me and straight over to Justin, put her head against his leg and looked up with those soft brown eyes.
We’ve been back to visit her a couple of times since. And now the house is cluttered with dog things. A fleece-lined waterproof coat to keep her warm on cold windy walks and a lighter fleece for the chilly nights in the flat. A cosy bed and ridiculous looking toys. Bowls, brush, collar. And even a dog gate with a cat flap for Coleridge. Because Judy will be joining our family on Tuesday.
It feels a bit surreal. I can’t quite believe that we’re being entrusted with this beautiful, sweet creature. And I’ve been amused at how efficient the church rumour mill is. Somehow everyone seems to know. And everyone has an opinion. Apparently the greyhound grapevine is just as effective because on Sunday another couple who have been lovingly adopted by a greyhound gave me two books they had found helpful.
So. Soon life will change. And I’m really excited because although my reasons for getting a dog were entirely pragmatic and self-serving, the truth is that in just a couple of visits, Judy has totally captured my heart.
(Coleridge, however, suspects something is about to happen, but is, for the moment, blissfully unaware of the severity of the situation …)