Need a Woman Gonna Hold my Hand, Won’t Tell me no Lies, Make me a Happy Man… 

When a self-confessed townie suddenly realises his canine is one too  

Column by Andy Barnham

I’ve been fortunate in that I was schooled in the countryside and spent my holidays in the city, or rather a variety of cities including Hong Kong, Tokyo and Riyadh; my parents being professional expatriates. Whilst I am comfortable in the countryside, there is no doubt I consider myself a big city boy. I prefer a city apartment to a countryside cottage, the bright neon lights over the stars in the sky and most of all, the sheer convenience of the local corner store over having to drive to the nearest shops. Given I now live in London and all my canine experience revolves around my puppy in the urban environment, the reality of Gypsy being a city dog only dawned on a recent trip to see my parents who reside in the depths of the countryside.

A walk around my parent’s town proved surprisingly difficult; Gypsy wasn’t allowed through the gardens at the bottom of the high street and even more notable was being asked to leave a café. I understand a gardener not wanting a dog roaming free in a manicured setting that may have taken hours to tend, but a café? A lightning bolt then hit me as to how fortunate I am in the city with Gypsy. Although I’ve been careful as to where I take her, I have yet to be asked to leave any location due to her presence. I have avoided obvious locations such as stores, supermarkets and restaurants but cafes and pubs have all been welcoming; even the local butchers doesn’t mind Gypsy’s presence. I am lucky in that Gypsy is well behaved, when she does make a nuisance it’s not because she’s being naughty, rather she’s a sociable soul who wants to be involved (in other words the centre of attention). Hide her under a table and she’ll fidget around everyone’s legs, offer her a seat at the table and she’ll be as quiet as a church mouse.

On the downside, while I live close to several commons, though they aren’t quite the great expanses of space you find in the countryside and Gypsy and I have to navigate over several roads before we reach them; she hasn’t yet learned to look left and right and then cross when no oncoming traffic is approaching. Also it was only during a trip to the Cotswolds that Gypsy learnt how to swim and given how much she enjoys the water it’s an activity I wish I could offer her more regularly; dogs aren’t allowed in the local water systems due to the avian wildlife that frolics there. I look forward to the day when she visits the sea for the first time and runs with the sand beneath her paws.

So why the difference between the countryside and the city? I had always presumed country folk to be more understanding and affable to pets so why is the reverse, seemingly, true? Is there so much space in the countryside that it is expected for pets to be walked and kept at home? Maybe the answer comes down to simple facts and economics, we are a nation of pet lovers and our loved ones need to be exercised. It’s not always convenient to have to take our four legged friends home, so shop owners know that if they want the custom, they need to be accepting of the odd dog or two. Either way, I know where I’d prefer Gypsy to grow up…  riddle_stop 2

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