01 APRIL 2017


Meet my new "daughter" aka Nancy, the Shiba Inu.



Dog bores. Don’t you loathe them? Insisting on bringing their pets everywhere and talking about them as if they were their kids. Perhaps it is just me, but they seem to have overtaken property prices and schools as a dinner-party subject. Honestly. Other people’s dogs. Almost worse than other people’s children.


And yet here I am not so slowly mutating into a big fat dog bore myself. It was three weeks ago that we got our shiba inu puppy, Nancy, and if you’ve sat next to me at anything since, you’ll know that I can talk of almost nothing else.


She is fabulously, incredibly, staggeringly beautiful


You might have seen one before and thought it was a very well-kempt fox. They are terribly fashionable at the moment, with their own internet meme, “Doge”, and the subject of countless William Wegman-like Instagram feeds, wearing human clothes, selling cigarettes at kiosks and even presenting the news (Fox News. Get it?). Don’t be beguiled by their teddy-bear looks, though — they are an ancient Japanese breed once used by samurai for hunting. They are also prone to bolting and chasing sheep, and massive, massive shedding.


Not the ideal choice, then, for a houseful of asthma sufferers, or if you have a weekend cottage next to a field full of sheep, or if you are looking to be lavished with affection (being of the spitz family — think akita and husky — they are fiercely independent), which makes me wonder slightly if I haven’t made a terrible mistake.


The fact is, Nancy is not the first shiba I have owned. My partner, Nick, gave me one as a birthday present in the mid-1990s, hoping, as many men with girlfriends in their late thirties hope, it would distract me from wanting a baby (and then, of course — boom — I got pregnant, but that’s another story). The experience, as anyone who knew me at the time would tell you, was not an unqualified success. The dog peed on beds, crapped behind curtains and got banned from our part of Wiltshire for killing two sheep (the only reason he didn’t get shot was because the farmer didn’t have bullets in his gun). Perhaps worst of all, though, he didn’t like my partner, regarding him as an irritating rival and me, as it were, as his bitch.


But, goodness, I worshipped that dog, and I was devastated when, five days after my first child was born, Kodo was run over while out with the dog walker. For almost 20 years I had a shiba-shaped hole in my heart, but the idea of getting another remained a far-off fantasy because a) my eldest has allergies and b) Nick would have left me if I did.


The dog peed on beds, crapped behind curtains and killed two sheep 


Which was sort of fine until last September, when my eldest (the one with the really bad allergies) left home for university. That, compounded with my 14-year-old discovering girls and not wanting to hang out with his mama any more, flicked a switch. It was no longer a fantasy, it was a physical need. And so began the campaign in earnest, how this time it would be different, and eventually I wore my partner down.


Here we are, then, with Nancy from Newcastle-under-Lyme (where her breeders, Pauline and Gary, live), the sweetest little thing you ever saw.


Which should be the end of the story, but, of course, it is just the beginning. Like the pain of childbirth you forget what a responsibility it is to have a puppy, what torture it is to hear it crying at night and what a bore it is taking it for walkies, what with it having to sniff something every three seconds and sitting down in the middle of a dual carriageway when it has had enough.


All of which is mitigated by how fabulously, incredibly, staggeringly beautiful she is and, perhaps more importantly, that she has bonded with my other half — every time she hears his key in the door, pinning her little ears back, waggling her whole body and often letting a little excitement wee slip, but we are working on that . . .


Last weekend we had Dilly the dog trainer in. She came highly recommended (Tom Ford is a client, apparently) and meant business, that was for sure. Poor Nancy, having been given free range of the house, didn’t know what had hit her. And nor did I. Is that really what I’m going to have to do not to rear another Kodo? Put her in a crate when she’s not being trained? Every fibre in my body fights against this, just as it did, when I had my children, against the notion of controlled crying and scheduled feeding.


So let me tell you what I have done; no, listen, it just might work. The one very smart thing I did when I was a new mother was get a fantastic maternity nurse who thought the same way I did about childcare, and 19 years later, gulp, she is still with us. So, then. The children are as good as gone. She happens to be good with dogs. A live-in canine nanny? Why not?