The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - January 28, 2016

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My sister has two border collies (Morag and Paddy, since you ask) and it was my job the other day to take them to what’s called their Doggy Day Care Centre.

My sister is a teacher (you’re not allowed to talk to her unless you raise your hand and have an appropriate haircut) and so, while at work, she puts her dogs in what is essentially a big warehouse where they run around and frolic all day with lots of other dogs, until they are collected by their owners in the evening.

After loading the dogs into the boot of my car (it’s an open-style boot, by the way, I didn’t just shove them into a dark enclosed space like kidnapped hostages), I made my way to the centre.

I used the sat nav to guide me, but could tell when I was almost there as I heard barking from four streets away.

It was pouring down, so my aim was to get from car to doorway in the quickest possible time. I got out (as you tend to do, when you’ve reached your destination) and carefully opened the boot.

I say carefully for my sister’s dogs are Border Collies, a lively breed to say the least, who, as I’ve learned to my cost in the past, are remarkably adept at jumping from a car boot and sprinting off at breakneck speed into the distance.

While putting Paddy, the younger and faster one, in a headlock that if seen by the RSPCA might have resulted in my arrest and the animal being taken into care, I stuck the lead round t’other, Morag, then secured Paddy, then, rain thumping down, made a dash for the Doggy Day Care Centre’s door.

However, I had to abruptly stop yards short, for the doorway was blocked by a man with one of those tiny dogs, about the size of a baby mouse, that appear to be in vogue these days.

It wasn’t on a lead and its owner – a man in his 50s with a grey pony-tail (this obviously turned me against him instantly) – was trying to coax it through the door.

“Now then Sonya,” he said, at which point I looked around to see there was a women nearby that I hadn’t noticed.

There wasn’t. He had called his dog Sonya, a name I most closely associate with a flame-haired Scouse woman who somehow had a couple of hits in the 1980s (I say somehow because she had a basic flaw for a singer; she couldn’t sing).

“Come on, be a good girl for daddy, let’s go through the door, come on Sonya.”

Sonya sat on her backside and stared back at him with a look that suggested she wasn’t going anywhere fast.

Now, as any sane dog owner will tell you, if your dog doesn’t move, you put its lead on and yank it hard to ensure it bloody well does. What you don’t do is have a prolonged conversation with it – especially not when there is another person standing with rain dripping off his forehead waiting to get past.

Pony-tail gave me a kind of ‘what-can-you-do?’ smile and leant towards his dog. “Now come come Sonya. Daddy hasn’t bought you up to be like that has he? Come on now, girl.”

While this idiocy was going on, I was not only getting increasingly drenched, but trying to restrain two Border Collies pulling at their leads with such force that my arm was in danger of popping out of its shoulder socket at any given moment.

I glared at pony-tail, but he didn’t apologise, or hurry, or move out of the way.

Instead, for the third time (or at least the third time that I witnessed, they could have been in this position for the last 35 minutes for all I knew), he implored Sonya to move.

Eventually, just as I was on the verge of picking Sonya up myself and hurling her inside, she belatedly decided to walk inside the door.

“I knew she’d get it eventually – training always pays off,” the pony-tailed cretin smiled in my direction.

I’ve taken his registration number and intend to track him down and send him the dry-cleaning bill for my trousers, which may never be the same again.

Asparagus is the key to a pet’s long life

While we’re on the subject of dogs, did you know that there are more than nine million in the UK?

Me neither, but given how much muck there is on the street near us then that’s not much of a surprise – I reckon half of them live round our way.

Most dogs live between 12 and 15 years, apart from a chap called Bluey, who, it’s reckoned, was the world’s longest living dog.

A breed of herding dog – which have a normal life expectancy of 13 years – Bluey was bought by owner Les Hill in Victoria, Australia, at the start of the 20th century and lived until the grand old age of 29 years, six months and 12 days.

That, however, is nothing compared to the longest living cat. The title belongs to Creme Puff, who, after managing not to die at the kitten stage in embarrassment at her name, lived till she was 38 – or 168 in cat years. She was born while the Beatles were still at their height in 1967, and outlived both Lennon and George Harrison, dying in 2005.

Remarkably Creme Puff’s owner, a chap called Jake Parry in Austin, Texas, had another cat (with the slightly less embarrassing name of Granpa) which lived till it was 34.

The longevity of the cats was put down to the diet Mr Parry raised them on – bacon and eggs, asparagus and coffee.

“It’s unusual, but he must be doing something right,” said a feline expert.

Note to self: give my cat Percy a mug of Mellow Birds when I get home tonight.