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Best in Show (Maybe Next Year!)

Author: Alison Irvine
Year: Future

You. Dog. You with your flapping ears and bounding legs, you that can catch a ball on the bounce, and leap puddles and ditches, you, dog: a year from now I will have you trained.

You will sit. You will stay. You will get down and come back. You will refrain from chewing the ends of cushions and eating the rug and snatching sausages from the plate. You will walk at my heel and sit while toddlers give you unsteady pats. You will be a glorious, refined creature and I will parade you through the streets of Glasgow like a true Crufts Champion.

I want to take you for a walk without you charging at swans and swooping at pensioners’ feet and eloping with other dogs and their ball-throwing owners.

I want you to lie near my yoga mat and follow my down-dogs and puppy-poses with your eyes only, your chin flat on the floor, your body in a comfortable sprawl without taking the yoga mat in your teeth and ripping it up.

I want my children to walk you without grazed knees or dislocated shoulders. I want you to stop licking their feet.

Please, doggy, please.

You will not chew the chair legs, you will not leap from sofa to sofa like some deranged frog. You will not sit in the postman’s mailbag and have him wail in despair. No, no, no. You will stop barking at the dropped balls lying inside the tennis court fence and you will stop traversing the courts, chasing the players’ rallies.

Don’t give me your cute face and silky, snugly fur. Don’t give me your pleading eyes and your thumping tail and your endearing dreaming yelps and mini-barks. Give me sanity! Give me a future! A future with you, dog, trotting by my side. Stress: what’s that? Cooped-up, bored children: no such thing! Marital bliss: absolutely!

Please doggy, I’ll do anything. Come on, what will it take?

Because I know the joy you bring my children. The love they have for you when you curl up next to them or put your head possessively on their laps is proper therapetic pet-love.

And you are so charming when I come home. You give me such a happy welcome. That tail of yours and the way you turn circles at my feet and bring me socks you have stolen from the washing basket. Of all of them, it’s you, isn’t it who gives me love every time instead of: ‘I’m hungry’, ‘She hit me’, ‘I need some money’ or ‘I’m going for a pint with the lads, you ok with that?’

See you, dog, I will train you. A year from now. A year from now.

For now, I will sit on the yoga mat and pet you calmly, and if I manage one twist to each side each day, that will be a start. Perhaps, in a month, if I stand in Warrior, you will yawn then turn away to chew your tail. Perhaps in two months when I Salute the Sun you will open one eye, close it and think ‘pah, boring’.

And we will take some practice walks in the park – me, you, the young ones, the teenager and the husband too. Won’t it be joyful to see your wagging tail disappear into bushes and to watch you chase after impossible birds? Won’t it be funny to see you cantering along the path with a massive stick in your mouth?

I could start by walking you small distances on the lead so it’s easy for me and easy for you – I will get you zen as a guide dog. The new pub is close by. It’s eighty per cent hipster but twenty per cent doggies under tables at which relaxed-looking owners sit. Oh, yes, dog, I will start by taking you there. Husband can come too.

I will practise calm because a calm owner means a calm dog. More yoga. More fruit. More books.

And I will practise my strong voice. Down, doggy. Sit, doggy. Stay, doggy. No, children, you can’t play on your electronic devices until you have put your washing away!

It might work...

Perhaps I could get the children to help me train you. We could stand at either end of the room and call your name and watch you dash for your treats. Maybe the teenager will join in too, emerging blinking from her girl cave. No, that’s a step too far.

But small steps, puppy steps, I know what to do, doggy, and I will have you trained. We will work together. One dog. One family. One training treat at a time. And we might just enjoy getting there.

‘. . . And here comes Alison Irvine parading her Champion dog down Buchanan Street. What a splendid creature this little cocker spaniel is. Refined and glorious and so well trained. . .’