I’m keeping my eyes peeled for one of those billboards saying ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ so I can gleefully point it out to Caroline. Regular readers of this column will know that my wife brought home a Vizsla puppy last December, her surprise ‘gift’ to the family, and that the cute little fellow has turned into a snarling, slobbering hound who has ruined my life.
Mealtimes in our household now resemble a scene from Jaws, with Leo circling unseen beneath the table then bursting out to grab a leg of chicken or a baked potato, or, if he can’t get hold of any food, just bite one of the children.
In our darker moments, Caroline and I have discussed how best to get rid of the beast. My initial thought was to return him to the breeder —‘Here, take him, no need for a refund’ — but the difficulty is that the children have all formed a strong attachment to him. Needless to say, they do next to nothing when it comes to the daily grind of looking after him, including three large meals, two hour-long walks, bathing him after he’s rolled in fox poo, which he does at every opportunity, and picking up a prodigious quantity of dog mess. (If only he were a pig, I could go into the silage business.)
No, the children would never countenance giving him back. My second idea was to ‘lose’ him, i.e., come back from a walk in Gunnersbury Park one afternoon and announce that he’d run off. This wouldn’t require much subterfuge since Leo does in fact run off all the time. Next time he disappears, I’d just refrain from spending half an hour looking for the bastard. Problem is, the children would never forgive me. Not only would they blame me for his vanishing act, they’d suspect I’d lost him deliberately since I’m always complaining about what a royal pain he is.
Then I had a more devious thought. What about getting one of the professional dog-walkers I always see in the park to lose him? Judging from how negligent they are when they’re supposed to be looking after their charges — they stand about gossiping while the dogs engage in a kind of mud-wrestling contest in the pile of manure by the BMX track — I don’t suppose it’s beyond their skill-set. I might not even have to submit the request. I could simply pick the most unreliable-looking one and entrust him with Leo’s care for the afternoon. It would almost certainly happen naturally.
But the risk is he’d simply be found. I could remove the address tag from his collar beforehand, but I stupidly had him ‘chipped’ when I was labouring under the illusion that I might want him back if he ever got lost. In fact, it’s quite probable he’d be returned to us that same day, given how famous Leo is among the dog-owners who frequent Gunnersbury Park — and I mean ‘famous’ in a bad way. He’s constantly chasing their dogs, pinning them to the ground and then trying to rape them.
Then I had a truly diabolical idea. Why not surreptitiously loosen his collar when I next drag one of the children along to Gunners, invite them to take possession of Leo while we’re waiting for the green man on the pelican crossing by the North Circular, then stand idly by as he slips free and runs into the fast-moving traffic? No way to blame me for that!
Trouble is, the poor child would be riddled with guilt for the rest of his or her life, not to mention being beaten half to death by their three siblings.
My final thought was inspired by reading A Very English Scandal, John Preston’s entertaining account of Jeremy Thorpe’s bungled attempt to have Norman Scott murdered. Readers of a certain vintage will remember that the man employed to carry out the deed ended up shooting Scott’s Great Dane, a scandal that prompted Auberon Waugh to form the Dog Lovers’ Party and stand against Thorpe in his North Devon constituency. Couldn’t I just pay someone to shoot Leo? It would be my Christmas ‘gift’ to the family for 2016.
OK, OK, I’m joking. Please don’t call the RSPCA. These dark fantasies are just my way of coping with being supplanted by another alpha male. In reality, I’ll continue to care for the bugger. And if something bad does happen to Leo, it’s nothing to do with me. Honest!