Of course, they wake me up in the morning, they teach me patience, and they make me laugh. But there are other, less obvious ways in which being Bonham and Violet’s indentured hound-slave has enhanced my life.
1. They’ve introduced me to the whole village. My friends think I bought my house, an old Georgian farmhouse in Herefordshire, because it looks like Mr. Darcy might pop out of the front door, but the truth is I chose it because it’s on a footpath that leads round a three-mile nature trail of apple orchards, woods and fields—perfect for walking my two Basset Hounds.
Writing can be a lonely occupation, but no matter what time I take my dogs out for a stroll, we always meet someone, and they always stop for a chat. I’d only been in the village for a week before people would say, “Ah, you’re Bonham and Violet’s owner!” and now I know nearly everyone—and they know me!
2. They keep me warm in winter. There’s nothing warmer than a 70-pound Basset Hound in full slumber mode. They’re like giant versions of those beanbags you heat up in the microwave. Imagine two of those draped over your knee—who needs central heating? I just have to make sure all books, remote controls, tea and chocolate are within reach because when the dogs settle in, they don’t like moving. Their dream is for the temperature to fall below a certain level at which point we can all sleep in one basket to save heat.
3. They make me do more housework. I’ll put my hands up; I am not one of nature’s domestic goddesses. For years, my idea of spring-cleaning was opening all the windows and running around squirting Mr. Sheen into the air. However, when you have two enormous hounds shedding more than you’d think possible, and emitting their own delightful houndy aroma, you learn to love your vacuum cleaner. My household routine has never been more rigorously attended to.
4. I don’t need a doorbell. My dogs can detect a deliveryman at 500 meters. Also postmen, visitors, builders, window cleaners, gardeners and carol singers. I’ve also saved on burglar alarms, as any burglar within a hundred-mile radius has probably heard them barking and assumed I keep a pack of feral Great Danes, not two sleepy Basset hounds.
5. They save my agent, editor and friends from “I’m stuck with my novel!” meltdown. When you live with a dog, you’ve always got someone to talk to. Dogs listen to your rants and woes, never piping up with “helpful” reminders, always looking at you with the same adoration at the end of whatever peevish grumble you’ve got off your chest.
I’ve talked through endless plot problems while tramping through the fields with my dogs, practicing dialogue aloud till it sounds right—my long-suffering agent is very grateful for this service the dogs offer, as otherwise she’d have to listen to it. I find once I start walking, my brain starts working its way through the knotty problems, so I really have the dogs to thank for dragging me out and making that happen.
And finally, they watch my figure for me. If I make a cake, Bonham particularly likes to make sure I don’t pile on the pounds by helping himself to as much as he can snaffle off the counter. We’re still working on that one.
Lucy Dillon is the author of the novel Walking Back to Happiness, about a young widow who is rescued from loneliness when she becomes a dog walker. (Look for Claudia Kawczynska’s review in the January 2012 issue of Bark.)
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