Gaby Soutar: A dog of my own is too much responsibility, so I'll borrow one instead

I’m the Weird Dog Lady of my postcode

I’m afraid you’ve missed International Dog Day, which was on Friday.

However, it won’t be too long until the next event.

They’re changing it, so that it’s in dog years, and there will be seven annually.

Pic: Eva Blanco Fotografia, AdobePic: Eva Blanco Fotografia, Adobe
Pic: Eva Blanco Fotografia, Adobe
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I’m joking, but I would possibly be up for that many celebrations. I am marking October 17 in my diary anyway.

I plan to eat a stone, take a worming tablet and bark at the window. After all, I don’t have my own pup to mollycoddle.

I’ve thought about taking the plunge almost every day for the last decade, and more so since I’ve started to work from home. The urge increased this week, when a study at Azabu University in Japan suggested that dogs produce tears of joy when they’re reunited with their humans. Or, to use the appropriate canine spelling, hoomans.

It’s not that these canine companions are greeting their eyes out, but there is an increase in general wetness. They reckon that this is a reaction to increased levels of oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone, in their bloodstream. That’s the same stuff that’s released when parents hold their newborn babies.


Those poor Stockholm Syndrome-addled fur dafties. They were once wolves, and now they’re needy limpets. I feel a bit embarrassed for them.

Still, I want that kind of welcome, rather than a thousand yard stare from my husband. If he sheds tears, it’s only because I’ve forgotten to pick milk up from the shop.

Over the years, I’ve fantasised about owning a Bedlington, Italian greyhound, miniature dachshund, Bichon Frise, Maltese, a Staffy in tortoiseshell or velvety grey, a Newfoundland, like Nana in Peter Pan, or a raggle-taggle mongrel that resembles a moth-eaten merkin.

However, I’ve never got as far as viewing a litter or checking out a rescue centre. I just hope that I’ll find a puppy by the side of the road, then we’ll be forced to adopt it. I won’t have the internal monologue, constantly talking me out of the idea.

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As a non-committal person, who doesn’t cope well with too much responsibility, the thought of making an active decision on dog ownership frightens me. I had gerbils as a child, and still have nightmares that I’ve forgotten to feed them their daily sunflower seeds, and their neglected corpses are buried deep in the sawdust.

We also had Twiggy the stick insect, who came to an appropriately sticky end, when my mum accidentally chucked her in the bin. I’m still reminded of her short and violent life, every time I walk past a privet hedge.

I also come from an extremely catty family. We had a succession.

They’re such simple and non-complicated pets, in comparison to dogs, though they would never cry tears of joy when you get home.

Instead, they glare like you’re a scab who’s crossed their feline picket line. Unless they’re hungry, then you might get a blink, if you promise to immediately open a tin of tuna.

Dogs are more emotionally rewarding, but harder work, with the training and poo-picking-up.

For now, I am okay with pawing other people’s pets.

I had a spell of using Borrow My Doggy - a website, which lets you sign up to dog-sit for pleasure, rather than cash. It’s like Tindr for terriers.

This resulted in getting to spend time with a local cavapoo as well as a miniature dachshund. They had very different personalities. The mixed breed was full of beans and enjoyed eating tissues. Delicious Kleenex.

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The sausage was a cuddler, who just wanted to sleep on your lap for most of the day. She was scared of the wind, hated the rain, and preferred to be lifted if she was forced to go outside. I felt like the Log Lady in Twin Peaks, proudly carrying her bollard-like frame around.

However, as their owners are working from home now, they don’t need my assistance, so I must go in search of random heads to pat.

I am known as the Weird Dog Lady of my neighbourhood. As I live near a large park, there are particularly rich pickings. There is probably one floof to every ten humans.

Along with an array of whatever-poos, my locale boasts a Basset hound, a whippet, a set of Westie triplets and a miniature schnauzer that always has one ear up, the other down, like semaphore flags. The only one I avoid is a snaggle-toothed cotton-woolly poodle creature. If you attempt to make friends, it transforms from a tiny and benign sheepy hamster to the drooling Xenomorph from Alien. One day, it hopes to rip my throat out.

Their walkers tend to gather in the middle of the grassy space, while their wards scatter around. I’ll usually make a beeline for the middle of the pack and hope one of them will stop chasing balls and sniffing bums and notice me. And the same goes for their dogs.

Although most of my crushes are completely unrequited, if I am acknowledged by a potential canine friend, I will get a guaranteed blast of serotonin (or maybe it’s oxytocin). My levels rise higher than the double-bagged mini black bags in an Edinburgh bin.

I recently had a moment - an understanding - with a soulful greyhound called Sean. I will never forget him.

There was also a soaking wet lab, who sunk onto the grass in bliss when I patted her rain-saturated head and told her that she was just a puppy, though it was obvious that she had a few years on the clock.

Maybe I will commit to ownership next International Dog Day. It’s not long until the next one.

For now, I will continue to fall in love with strangers’ pups.

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