This move involves not only living with a real human boy, but also his real near-human dog, Stuart. Everybody loves Stuart, a big, blonde, trusting oaf. He is the kind of dog that strangers cannot seem to help practically doffing their caps to, paying well owed tribute to his radiant benevolence and dignity. Children’s eyes light up upon spotting his fluffy cloud-like mane, and reach out to jam their sticky fingers up his obliging nostrils. When I told my then-housemate that I was planning to move in with Brendan, her immediate response was “Oh my God, you get to live with Stuart!”, and we had a silent hug-dance of glee together. He’s sparky too, though, Stuart- sassy and beloved, like a regular doggy Prince Harry.
Not so long ago, though, I would have hated the thought of living with him. It was a shameful secret I could never have shared with anyone, but until’recently I was a private but vehement hater of dogs. Oh, a calendar of puppies could amuse me for a few moments as I passed my teenage Saturdays slowly looking through various newsagents (can I get a holla from my girls who pretend to read the NME next to hot plaid-ridden boy waifs). A tiny dog could snuffle near me and I would coolly appraise it as acceptable. But anything bigger, anything bounding around, tongue out, sniffing crotches was too much for me. Anything exhibiting the essential dog-ness of dogs I found vaguely distasteful
I had always thought of dogs as uncouth. When I had whined for a puppy as a child, my mother told me that they were too much work, too messy, too big. I took this on board, and grew up considering cats the right-on, sophisticated pet of choice. The same things I learned to value in humans, I praised in cats; their aloofness, their independence, their barely-there, unobtrusive nature.
Gradually though, as I became an adult, I began to wonder if I hadn’t gotten it wrong about dogs. As I learned to love people better, and more, I wondered if plainly expressed affection and need might be admirable, and not repulsive. I started to find their stupid, open happiness endearing, and enviable. I began to like them, prefer them to cats even, and smiled at them as one might elderly neighbours in the street.
Over the years, the silliest and most oafish, most dog-like dogs of them all have come to represent decency and goodness to me; a cheering reminder of the stubborn, foolish willingness to be loved I try to live by too.
Megan Nolan @megaroooo