Paul McNamee: The dog days of lockdown

People are ready for the good company that dogs can bring

I know three people who got dogs during the lockdown. Legally, I should add. These are not dodgy under the cover of darkness deals. They’re all responsible people. All three were planning on this before the world changed and they were just waiting on the puppies to get their jabs and be ready.

The timing is good for them. Not simply because they have a lot of time spare to get training in place. And puppies do like training attention. People are ready for the good company that dogs can bring. More ready than ever. We happily devoted a lot of space last week to our vendors and their dogs. In this time of isolation and separateness the dogs are incredible and true companions. I’m sure a lot of you are wishing restrictions were lessened a little so you too could get a dog NOW.

I have a dog. I’ve written before about Toastie. He’s a Springer Spaniel and he is, of course, the best dog. One of the great joys of working from home is having him around all the time. He is sitting at my feet as I write this. If I get up to get some water, he’ll follow. If I head out of the room, he’ll stand staring at the door and wait on my return. We’re a couple of swells just now, me and Toastie.

An animal psychologist, warned that our dogs have built up a “huge reservoir of over-dependency” in recent weeks

Earlier in the week I did a live online video interview about the changes we’ve introduced to The Big Issue since coronavirus meant our vendors were removed from the streets. (I should add that I will do this anytime, with any web, TV or radio host. I do not tire of explaining how and why we’re now offering subscriptions; how we’re now in shops; how we’ve digital options including a new app. I fear others may tire, but here I stand). During the interview, Toastie let himself be known. Attention turned to him and there was much more interest in Toastie’s interventions than mine. It’s not unexpected. He makes more sense, frequently, and I won’t treat you like a king if you throw a ball for me to chase. Not all the time.

But, as I said to Toastie, this will not last. Just as the unpleasant parts of lockdown will pass, the horrendous life stealing, the friendship quashing, the money worries, the way it keeps us from just being among people (oh, to be able to mingle freely), so too the good things will pass. And for a lot of us that is time with our families and time with our faithful pets.

We need to be mindful of it. Dr Roger Mugford, an animal psychologist, warned that our dogs have built up a “huge reservoir of over-dependency” in recent weeks. We need to start work now, said Mugford, so they don’t get anxious when the change comes. We have to socially distance now so we can do it better when social distancing loosens.

I told Toastie we were going to have to do that. Then we went up the hill to the view that carries all the way west to the mountains of Arran. And it was a still, warm night just as the light turned, and Toastie went to have a look where he thought he detected something of immediate importance. So I said again, Toastie, we’re going to have to do that.

Just not yet.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue