Just imagine being a lockdown dog. At first it must have been a thrill. Those dogs must have felt so special, so loved. I bet they didn’t even realise how expensive they’d started to get; stupid humans paying stupid money for a pet they thought they couldn’t possibly live without. Of all the pets you could choose from to keep you company and soothe your furrowed lockdown brow the dog was always going to to be the first port of call. It’s so obvious. All the loyal this, and the unconditional that. You wouldn’t get a lot of warmth out of a snake or a tarantula and if you went too small on the furry front, specifically a hamster or a shrew, then you’d quite rightly have worried the poor little bugger might not get through the winter intact. Incidentally, I would like to suggest that the hamster is one of the most pointless pets out there, but then I’m not an easily distracted eight year old. You could have opted for a feathered friend such as a budgie (also quite pointless, and that’s coming from someone who did have a budgie when he was eight years old) or even go full out and get a parrot. Yes, a parrot! Why didn’t everyone think of that before? They can talk back at you, something no other pet can do, though the chief problem is that parrots talk a lot of rubbish and the sound of it grating away around the clock would surely number its days – the last sentence to pass it’s beak being something like “wotcha gotta bag for?” or “wotcha doin with a knife?”.
If you already owned farm animals (for whatever reason, I’m not judging, well, I am, but I’d rather not know) when lockdown kicked in then you would be fine, being provided with your very own petting zoo in the back garden. If stroking the flanks of your pony helped keep away the crazy voices in your head then very well done you, and if feeding the hens distracted you from sticking a paring knife through your pet parrot’s throat then jolly good luck for that parrot. Of course, having farm animals would also have given you the edge during any food shortages that may have occurred and don’t think that thought didn’t land on our desk either. Wifey persists (persistent being her unofficial middle name) in breaching the subject of owning hens; she hears they are fully of character and, more importantly, eggs. However, it is a notion that I feel compelled to veto at every stage, to the point that I can even hear myself saying “you choose my darling – it’s me or the hens”. Not that I don’t like hens, but it’s one thing liking them and whole other thing looking after them and then, one cold morning, shuffling out in your slippers and picking up the bits the foxes couldn’t finish.
Another reason we resisted buying hens during lockdown was that we had an animal already. Hairy Mary is a cat, and while I imagine some people opted for a new cat to comfort then in lockdown there was no way they were ever going to be as popular as dogs – you couldn’t take your cat for a walk as a form of exercise, (you could try but it wouldn’t end well). Despite the clear pressures of working from home and having our social lives desiccated overnight Mary changed her routine in no way whatsoever. She has mellowed in her own way over the years but throughout our (very comfortable, very first world) ordeal she was, to put it bluntly, a fat lot of good. Indeed it was during the darkest hours of the pandemic that she found a new little cosy spot at the back of the loft eves where she would curl up every morning, usually only emerging late each afternoon for the food that was hers by right. I never measured it exactly but I believe she chose that spot because it was as far away from contact with us as possible, which is not quite what pets are for. On the plus side she did have have her cuddly moments and she was a strange, intoxicating sort of comfort simply by being so outrageously pretty, and she remains my favourite animal on the planet: the only reason we don’t enter her into the ‘Pet Of The Year’ competition every year is because we’d get so bored of winning all the time (something Ant and Dec might want to think about).
So that takes us back to the dog. Man’s best friend and all that. Or at least someone’s best friend. During lockdown 3.2 million UK households became pet owners for the first time. That’s a crazy number. That’s also a lot of people who are new to having a clue about owning a pet. And apparently the largest group of new pet owners in this period were not sad pensioners who had been cut off from their families but instead they were the youth (of today, if you like): the big kids with their anxious, internet shamy, fame cravy, history cleany, wet through wokery to contend with, clearly found not being the centre of everyone else’s attention a burden too great to bear and so duly bought as much dog as they could. And if they couldn’t get their hands on an overpriced pooch they just went for the next best animal they could find. Or a hamster. The outcome was always rather inevitable, and it’s not as if the idiots weren’t advised against a hasty purchase fuelled by boredom and a need to be loved, rather than loneliness – people are already starting to throw their pets away and the biggest losers, sadly, are the dogs. Some of are being left on the side of the road and others taken to pet homes, in some cases the owners claiming them falsely to be strays; which in a way is even worse than leaving them on the side of the road. You can even buy an unwanted lockdown dog on Gumtree. How low have we sunk?
There is no doubt that the majority of pets that were bought ‘due to Covid’ have become part of the family and that’s great, because that’s what pets are supposed to be, but for the rest they have merely become a reminder of every animal bought as an act of stupidity, ignorance or selfishness. Wifey thinks that half hearted owners who give up their pets should pay for their upkeep until they are bought by someone else. This is a very good idea and if it could be enforced it would go some way to solving the problem. But it isn’t enough. I think that if you bought, for instance, a dog in lockdown because you were wonewey and needed a new wittle fwend but now all your usual wanker pals are back coughing on the streets and protesting against stuff and you want to get rid of that mutt asap I think the least you could do is reverse the roles. Your pet should be allowed free reign of your house while you crawl on all fours into a cage, where you can be locked up until you weally, weally know what animal cruelty and abandonment must feel like. Either that or you should be fed to the dogs, a wobbly pound of flesh at a time, because if you can’t bear the responsibility of owning one then you shouldn’t have been allowed one in the first place. There is an argument that pet owners need more education about what it means to care for a pet, but the problem is that it’s very hard to educate someone who is so profoundly stupid they really can’t work it out for themselves in the first place. We’ve got to the stage where it might even be better to put the pets in charge and take that role reversal idea up a notch. Eating, sleeping, walking and shitting. That’s all we’d have to do with our time. And since some humans are so daft they can barely shit straight anyway I’d be happy to vote pet at the next election. Feline, canine, whatever. Even a bloody hamster would be an intellectual improvement.
G B Hewitt. 30.10.2021