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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.


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Sunday 1 September 2013

Experts tell us that the owning of a pet is a good thing.  It’s beneficial for one’s health both physical and mental.  Pets help the elderly fight the scourge of loneliness.  They tell us stroking your cat or dog can calm you, even lower your blood pressure.  And a recent report goes as far as saying that the ownership of one can subtract a good six months from your biological age.
No doubt all this is so.  However, there is, I've discovered, from personal experience, a reverse side.  Animals  can actually damage your health and they most certainly can damage you financially - and this is excluding vet’s bills.  And I'm not talking about the simple - tripping over them in the dark - accidents.  Oh dear me no.
It started years ago with Alan who came to stay with his dinner jacket and ticket for a Cambridge May Ball.  He did not know he was allergic to cats.  But when our kitten climbed under his duvet he discovered he was and the incident triggered his first ever asthma attack - a particularly bad one.  Once the ambulance was called we were all late and he missed the ball.   We could not find a buyer for his ticket and Moss Bros weren’t interested that he’d never worn their suit.  I was unaware that this was the beginning of pet catastrophes.

My own personal first was when heavily pregnant with child my Great Dane, Emma, chose to run through my legs.  Now, given that I am five foot two if I stand up straight, you will appreciate that a Dane could not possibly get through my short legs.  Instead we  both tumbled down the bank.  How we all laughed.  However, I still have trouble with my spine forty years later.
St Bernards, given their size (ours was ten stone) should perhaps come with a health warning.  Buttercup had, as do all her breed, a very large head and a loving but a very small intelligence.  She loved to head-butt - don’t ask me why, but it never seemed to hurt her, the same could not be said for her victims.  I lost count of the times she banged into me and gave me a black eye and ringing in the ears.  The trouble is no one ever believed it was the dog and not my poor Billy who was responsible.
St Bernards slobber.  Our cleaning bills for guests’ clothes was soon in three figures.  She was brilliant at knocking and cracking teeth, two caps at least she cost me.  Not counting the trauma of split lips and upholstery ruined by the ensuing blood.
Snow confused Buttercup too.  We could never get her to understand that the idea was to rescue people not push them in the back, knock them flying and then try to bury them in the snow.  At least nobody suffered from hypothermia.
One day when I was having a lie in and thoroughly enjoying it, Buttercup bounded in to say good morning and promptly sat on my hip.  Billy heard the crack in the bathroom and came rushing out to find me rolling in agony and Butts thinking it was all a jolly jape.   The hip was totally replaced two years later.
My dear late ex-husband, while living with us in France, acquired two dogs.  He had rescued them from the firing squad - they are French dogs and their fate was to be shot if he hadn’t taken them in, or so he believed; personally I think he was conned. ( If anyone is thinking of moving to France, be warned, our reputation as animal lovers precedes us, and you risk ending up as a cat and dog refuge for unwanted Gallic pets.)  To this day I'm not sure if they actually are dogs, they are so huge they look like ponies.  Their speciality is eating furniture.  So far they’ve munched their way through two armchairs and a Knole sofa.  I won’t even go into the problem of the doors!
Fish can be a problem too.  I loved my pond with the fish sneaking through the water.  But then one day noticing one looked poorly I climbed in to rescue it and take it to the vet when whoosh, base over apex.  I wasn’t unconscious that long.
Bessie is a 40 lb. Victorian bulldog who runs like the wind.  (She’s not one of the crunched up noses ones but has a long one she can breathe through, and longer legs.)  Her joy is to take a run at you and swerve at the last moment. She’s  very good at it.  I suppose it was inevitable that one day she should carry straight on and smash into my knee.  Four months later it was a case of a total knee replacement - she was most caring when I came out of the hospital.   She’s not averse to a bit of teeth rearrangement either.
Do you begin to grasp what I’m trying to say?
It’s not just me.  Rebecca, my daughter, has a rescued greyhound.  He is afraid of stairs but has a habit of curling up at the bottom in the dark with the consequent lurking hazard.  He’s also eaten four TV remote controls.  I  did suggest she stopped buying them and just pointed the dog at the television and prodded his tummy.
.Has  it put me off keeping pets?  No! Would I have them all again?  You bet.  They may have beaten me up, cost a fortune in furniture and medical costs - I added it all up once but I’m too ashamed to tell you - and that’s excluding the damage to the upholstery in the brand new  Mercedes - but I wouldn’t be without them.  Apart from Buttercup they all seem to know when they have hurt me and are always very sorry.
The family are just relieved that I never had a fancy for a horse, now they can be real trouble.
Stop press:  my Cairn terrier has just eaten my contact lenses, case and all!


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