Taking care of pets

Bottom of the class for behaviour – the collie? You cannot be serious. My first reaction on seeing the headlines was outrage on behalf of our own dear family pet, a beloved member of our household for nearly 12 years. Cabbage – yes, I know – is a collie cross who came to us as a nervous young dog from a rescue home. She was meant as a treat for good behaviour for our younger son, who had spent weeks on the Dogs Trust website, reciting ‘dog ownership is rewarding but has its responsibilities’.

Friends who knew more than us warned us against a collie on the grounds that they are country working animals in need of endless exercise. Indeed, Cabbage needs three walks a day, but for us that has been a great boon, forcing us to stay active at an age when our limbs could be seizing up. Every morning, the alarm goes off before 6am and by 6.30, one or other of us is out with the dog. Two more outings follow during the day – one with a professional dog walker – and if we get home late, my wife will insist on ‘just a quick turn around the block’.

As for behaviour, apart from a tendency to chase other people’s footballs in the park (now fading as she ages), Cabbage has the sweetest nature and has never given us any trouble – with one exception. At home, she sees herself as head of security, standing guard when I do live radio broadcasts from my front room, and launching herself at the front door with a fusillade of barks when the postman or anyone else is foolish enough to approach.

But in general she combines the gentlest temperament with the characteristic collie intelligence. We got home last night to a warm welcome. In the sitting room, we found her in front of the TV, tuned to Mastermind. You may say our cleaner had left the telly on to keep her company. I prefer to believe the dog had switched channels in search of more demanding fare.

The Daily Telegraph