Unfortunately our new puppy is not just for lockdown

Will the huge surge in demand for puppies and kittens during lockdown lead to a lot of abandoned pets when life returns to normal? That’s the concern of various professional bodies and animal welfare organisations. The Kennel Club has warned those searching for puppies on its website that a dog is for life, not just the coronavirus, while Battersea Dogs Home initially slapped a ban on rehoming, allowing only fostering during the crisis. ‘Now isn’t the right time to bring home a puppy, or make an impulsive decision to get a pet,’ warned Holly Conway, head of public affairs at the Kennel Club. The Young family acquired Malinky, our five-month-old

Riveting – and disgusting: BFI’s ‘Dogs v Cats’ and ‘Eating In’ collections reviewed

This week I’d like to point you in the direction of the British Film Institute and its free online archive collections, which are properly free. There is no signing up for one of those ‘free trials’ which means that, somewhere down the line, you’ll discover you’ve been paying £4.99 a month for something you didn’t want. And it’s certainly excellent value for the money you don’t pay, as there are 65 of these collections, grouped under various headings — ‘Football on Film’, ‘Black Britain on Film’ — although I plumped for ‘Eating In’, because it’s all any of us do now, and ‘Cats v Dogs’, as if that were even

Our puppy has no respect for the two-metre rule

Since the beginning of the lockdown, Caroline has been congratulating herself for having bought a puppy ‘just in time’. She doesn’t mean it would have been impossible to get one after 23 March, because visiting a breeder is not an ‘essential’ journey. She means that a puppy is a great source of entertainment, as well as solace, when you’re cooped up in your home, particularly if you have children. It’s like having our very own therapy dog. She’s a cavapoochon — a cross between a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, a toy poodle and a bichon frise. A handbag dog, in other words. We had an interminable family discussion about what

Quarantine with our new puppy will send me barking

When the news leaked at the weekend that the government was considering telling those aged 70 and over to self-quarantine for 12 weeks to protect them from catching coronavirus, I began to worry about my elderly neighbours. How will they get essential supplies, particularly if the supermarkets’ home delivery services get backed up? What if they’re not on Netflix and have gone through all their box sets? Who will walk their dogs? It was time to summon up that famous Dunkirk spirit and create a network of volunteers willing to muck in until the crisis is over. A bit of googling revealed I was far from alone in thinking this.

Spare me the ‘furbabies’ – the humanisation of pets has gone too far

‘Can my dog meet your horse?’ asked the woman, as her German shepherd lunged at me, making my thoroughbred jump up and down in panic. We had been riding through the woods, a friend and I, when we came across one of those dog-walking clubs. Up to a dozen of what looked like former guard dogs and their owners came round a bend on the track towards us. ‘He just wants to say hello!’ the woman persisted. How many times have we all heard that from a dog-owner in the park before said beast pounces and humps us half to death? So I told her very firmly: ‘Absolutely not. Do

For the love of dog

The picture on the front of the Animal Blessing Service programme featured a dog, a cat, a rabbit, a goldfish, a cockatoo, a hamster, a snake and a ferret. In the event, the congregation was confined to people and dogs, including my two cockers. We sat in a circle in the shady courtyard of St James’s Church, Piccadilly as the Reverend Lindsay Meader, resplendent in a rainbow stole, led us in prayer. If a passing tourist wanted to understand British people and their animals, they had come to the right place. A few sightseers did wander into the square and watch for a while. St James’s is a dog-friendly church

Diary – 11 July 2019

I am beginning to feel like a sort of fairground curiosity: one of those pickled things in jars that Victorians stared at. It is Boris’s fault. Because I once had a close friendship — all right, all right, a tendresse — with Mr Johnson, I am pointed at, photographed, and harried in the aisles of shops. Soon members of the public will be tearing off bits of my clothes — something Russian peasants used to do with anyone who had met the Tsar, as if this would bestow some of Batiushka’s divine status. Tabloid journalists doorstep me, believing I have the answers. I am a female Zoltan Kapathy; not so much an

Barometer | 4 July 2019

Model hobbies Asked what he did to relax, Boris Johnson claimed that he liked to make model buses. Some others who share his hobby: — Rod Stewart is a keen railway-modeller who claims to have a set the size of a tennis court at his Beverly Hills home. — Jools Holland, Roger Daltrey and Pete Waterman are all into model railways. — Model buses are a more rarefied taste. But if he isn’t already, Boris could consider joining the Model Bus Federation, which has represented the hobby since 1968. Its national show and AGM will be held in Tewkesbury on Saturday 5 October, just after the Conservative party conference.  

Doggo lingo

Doggy sounds childish. ‘How much is that doggie in the window?’ asks the popular song. (The song title used the spelling doggie, being American, though Britain enjoyed a cover version by Lita Roza in 1953, the same year as Patti Page’s original.). Doggo sounds cooler (like daddy-o in hep talk), but in the strange world of internet image-sharing it goes with a sentimentality which would shame the nursery. The internet has said ‘Aaah’ (or in America ‘Aaaw’) to cute cats, but people post pictures a-plenty of cute dogs. One Twitter account, WeRateDogs, has 8.13 million followers and simply tweets photos of dogs with a caption and a rating out of

Man bites man

Matteo Garrone’s Dogman, which is Italy’s entry for the foreign language Oscar next year, is bleak, unflinching, oppressive, masculine (very), violent (shockingly) and basically everything you’d expect me to hate. Except I didn’t. It is out of the ordinary. It has a magical central performance. It is tense, as you wait for the little man to face down the big man, if he does. Plus there are lots of lovely dogs, which always helps, and none are harmed. Aside, that is, from the yapping chihuahua thrown into a freezer to shut it up. So there is that, too. Garrone, who is known for the terrific Gomorrah, and also the highly

Dogs of war

When I was a child in the 1950s it was unheard of for someone to be killed by a dog. Dogs were rarely killed by other dogs. By the early 1990s, things were different. Dog-fighting made a comeback and the fad was for the ‘weapon’ dog, promoted via American gangsta rap. Staffordshire bull terriers were being bred in large numbers again and other fighting breeds, previously unheard of here, were brought into this country. In 1991, concerned about attacks, the government passed the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA), which banned the American pit bull terrier as well as the lesser-known dogo Argentino, fila Brasileiro and Japanese tosa, all of fighting origins.

All bark and no bite | 28 March 2018

The latest film from Wes Anderson is a doggy animation set in a fantasy Japan and as there was a screening in London earlier this week for owners and their dogs I took my own dog, Monty. He said he liked it. It was ‘good’, he said. I did not especially trust his opinion so investigated further. As good as, say, drinking from the toilet? ‘No,’ he said, ‘not as good as that, obvs.’ As good as this tennis ball here? ‘No’, he said, ‘because a tennis ball is always AMAZING!’ As good as cheese? ‘Nothing is as good as cheese. Fair play, you caught me out there.’ You didn’t

Barometer | 15 February 2018

Museums of curiosity The former culture secretary Ed Vaizey suggested that there are quite enough museums in Britain, and that they should attempt to display their treasures in more visited places like shopping centres. Some suggestions for an educational day out. — British Lawnmower Museum, Southport. — British in India Museum, Nelson, Lancashire. (Received 109 visitors in 2016, according to VisitEngland.) — Dog Collar Museum, Leeds Castle, Kent. — Derwent Pencil Museum, Cumbria. — Teapot Island, Yalding, Kent. ‘The largest teapot exhibition in England with more than 8,200 teapots to be seen.’ Clean and dirty transport Transport minister Jo Johnson announced that from 2040 all diesel-only trains will be banned

Hot dogs

There are currently 151,000,000 photos on Instagram tagged #Dog which is 14,000,000 more than those tagged #Cat. The enormous number shouldn’t surprise us. We’ve been obsessively depicting our dogs since prehistoric times, when we painted them on walls, carved them in ivory and buried them with bones and blankets for the afterlife. A Dog a Day is one of two marvellous new books that feed this atavistic devotion. A handsome collection of Sally Muir’s dog portraiture, it demonstrates the artist’s technical range and her keen understanding of essential doggishness. The images are deft sketches that capture the particular hang of a hound’s head, the Mikado-sticks jumble of lurcher legs or

Diary – 7 September 2017

September is my time of year. Summer is all very well if you’re one of those golden-haired, long-limbed types who looks heavenly in a sarong and a waist chain. But for me it’s just an endless battle against heat, direct sunlight, corpulence (chiefly my own) and biting insects. Besides, there’s nothing quite like that back-to-school feeling, the promise of a new term — and a chance to catch up with friends who have been off gallivanting all summer. Hence one of my favourite dates in our social calendar, an annual ‘end of summer’ party in Henley. It’s a bit of a schlep on a Saturday night, but always worth it,

Puppy love

There have been times since the break-up when I’ve felt so low I’ve opened a bottle of Shiraz and spent the whole night flicking through my mobile-phone photos of the two of us: the sunsets we watched; the meals we shared. I’d remember long walks on the beach and longer mornings in bed. How you’d crawl up over the duvet and wake me by licking my head. Leaving the boyfriend was surprisingly easy but oh, the agony of losing the dog! My sweet double doodle (that’s a labra-doodle, goldendoodle cross). ‘Yes, she is pretty isn’t she?’ I’d say to the strangers who accosted us. ‘She’s 18 months old and she’s

Letters | 27 April 2017

Aid is not the answer Bill Gates says he is a huge fan of capitalism and trade (Save Aid!, 22 April) but then spoils it by repeating the received wisdom about aid: ‘If you care at all about conditions in Africa – the population explosion, measles, polio — then don’t suggest there is a private-sector solution to these problems. It’s outrageous.’ No. It is not outrageous. A vigorous private sector is the only answer to African development. I have spent my life in Africa, working in 18 of its countries, usually deep in the bush. I have watched numerous aid programmes fail once the external funding is removed, and have spent

James Delingpole

The real deal | 27 April 2017

The other day I had a very dispiriting conversation with a TV industry insider. It turns out that everything you see on reality TV is fake. It’s the ‘everything’ part that really bothered me. Obviously, we all sort of know that most TV is faked: that close-ups on wildlife documentaries are sometimes filmed in zoos and that the meerkat they pretend is the same meerkat is actually three different meerkats; that the chance meetings with colourful characters and experts are all prearranged and that when they answer the door and act surprised it’s often the third or fourth take; that the glamorous parties and realistic, totally unstilted dialogue on Made

Letters | 23 March 2017

Speaking for Scotland Sir: I wonder if it is wise of Charles Moore (Notes, 18 March) to assume — as so many do — that because they lost the independence referendum back in 2014, the Nationalists do not speak for Scotland? In the following general election Scottish voting virtually wiped out every political party north of the border, other than the SNP. Might it not be wiser to assume that the Scots had thought again? Ian Olson Aberdeen Birds, gangs and economics Sir: Simon Barnes is correct in his implication that the trapping and harvesting of small birds by criminal gangs in Cyprus is enough to make the average Briton

The weird ways in which people avoid cleaning up after their dogs

One of the most important debates in Britain’s history took place in Westminster earlier this week. The issue was absolutely critical to our future and will affect not just the current inhabitants of these islands, but future generations too. I’m talking, of course, about the discussion in Westminster Hall on Tuesday night about how best to dispose of dog waste. Should we place it in little black plastic bags or use the ‘stick and flick’ method, i.e. find a stick and flick it into the undergrowth? At this point, I would love to update readers about the fate of Leo, the Young family’s Hungarian vizsla, but I can’t for two