Dad's in the dog-house . . . again

Alex Darcy is 46, lives in Suffolk with wife Jane, daughter Emma, 14, and son James, nine, and wonders how life got so . . . baffling.

Alex Darcy is 46, lives in Suffolk with wife Jane, daughter Emma, 14, and son James, nine, and wonders how life got so . . . baffling

I'M in the doghouse - again - and as usual it's my own fault I'm lying among half-gnawed Bonios and leftover jellyish bits of Pedigree Chum. Readers of previous columns might recall the household campaign to raise our number to five by welcoming a canine to our hearth - a campaign currently stalled by a single intractable member (me) who while numerically outnumbered appears to possess the family equivalent of a union block vote or EU veto.

It doesn't happen very often but, at least on this issue, I'm holding all the cards. Only I then go and foolishly put my aces on the chopping block by suggesting we sashay on down to Suffolk Dog Day last Saturday in the pretty grounds of Helmingham Hall.

Well, I was trying to be kind. Emma adores anything alive as long as it isn't human - even, we discovered last week, wasps - James is also keen on animals, though not quite astute enough to realise his too-quick movements and noisy default setting mean they're not so keen on him; and both Jane and I grew up with dogs and are suckers for a cute face. (Mainly, in her case, John Barrowman's.)


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It was a lovely day out, with former Blue Peter legend Peter Purves taking care of presenting duties: his dulcet tones took us back to the 1970s; and he's hugely knowledgeable about dogs, owning many of his own and presenting the BBC's coverage of Crufts for many years.

Of course, everywhere you looked there was a four-legged cutie-pie with appealing eyes and a waggy tail, be it an Airedale terrier, Dalmatian, Golden Retriever or even a Moscow Watchdog (which was a new one on me). The best attraction was the scurry run, where pooches chased a pretend rabbit on a string . . . or not. Many just couldn't be tempted. My favourite competitor was Shola, a large poodle whose faintly-ridiculous bouffant styling disguised the tenacity of a terrier and the killer instinct of Rafael Nadal.

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It wasn't long before the inevitable question came: “Dad, can we have an ice-cream?” Actually, I jest; the plea was “Dad, can we get a dog?” The answer is, of course, “Yes - but not before 2015.”

It's not that I want to be a mean old wet dog-blanket - Emma's rebuke, though she doesn't help her case by coveting a Newfoundland of all things - but on this issue you simply can't let the heart rule the head, and it falls to me to (self-appointed, admittedly) to play the pet politician and “take the tough decisions”. Our current situation means that a dog's not “not just for Christmas” it's not for the rest of the year, either.

By now the arguments are well-rehearsed chez nous: Either it would kill the cats, or they'd leave home (actually, quite an appealing prospect, seeing as they've taken to spraying the walls) or they'd kill the dog.

We're out and about quite a lot - what would we do with the dog then, or when we went on holiday? The garden would need extensive dog-proofing. We've too many gates and doors, and it would get out. The novelty would wear off and walking would soon fall on good old Mum and Dad (evidence: Andy next door, who has become walker-in-chief with Petra).

Ditto clearing-up and feeding (evidence: a succession of guinea-pigs from 2002-07, and this year's shoeboxes of caterpillars cum beetles). I also suspect that, collectively, we're a tad dysfunctional and would drive a dog nuts…

Mind you, that rehomed racing greyhound that caught and made off with the fake rabbit did look awfully winsome… Maybe, just maybe…

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