Every writer should have a dog.
I’m saying that after eight years of resisting the whines and pawings of my own litter. But now we’ve got her – a beautiful, smelly, impossibly keen, unfeasibly soft bundle of lab-retriever called Umber – I realise she’s the greatest gift to those weirdos who spend their days arranging and rearranging squiggles on screens.
It’s not the fact that she forces them out of their virtual worlds into the actual outdoors, though that’s no bad thing. It isn’t the way she inspires baking metaphors (is her fur more shortbread or fresh scone?) though flicking through the cookbook is a great time-waster, a gift to any writer. It’s not even the poo collecting, which combines the outdoors with the time-wasting neatly if stickily.
No, it’s the lack of words. After half an hour of wondering whether to write ‘extremely’ or ‘very’, or whether the orphan’s eyes are as brown as chestnuts or conkers, there’s nothing better than a speechless tickle of the tum, or a soppy coo as she licks the pomposity out of you.
For me, language is one of the greatest joys of being human, along with smoky bacon crisps and little toes (have you ever seen anything so weird?). But you do need a break now and then. And what better language-liberator than a floppy mess that wags her tail to ‘Sweetie Pops’ or ‘Stinky Poo’ and doesn’t care whether she’s eating or scoffing, wolfing or troughing?