In an earlier post I wrote rather unflatteringly about my dog, Fergal. I called him ‘Darling Mr Fuck Paws’ and ‘The Hairy Little Prick’ and so on. Well, this morning when I woke up the first thing I saw was two keen eyes blinking beneath a wagging tail and it occurred to me I ought to set the record straight. The lockdown has been incredibly hard but Fergal, bless him, has played a large part in making it bearable.
I didn’t even want a dog. The idea struck me as absurd. Why on earth would Polly and I volunteer to take on ten to fifteen years worth of worry and responsibility? I didn’t grow up with animals and I suspect that bred in me an ambivalence towards pets. Videos on social media featuring pets being adorable would leave me cold. I never bothered looking down into Battersea Dog’s Home from the train on the way into London Victoria. I even thought Homeward Bound was a bit shit.
Another factor was my cat allergy. It’s a medium to bad intolerance which has caused Polly more pain than I over the years. Polly has always wanted a cat in an urgent, hot-and-upset sort of a way. She had desperately wanted one as a girl and only got her precious Sydney when she was on the verge of leaving for Drama School. Cruel circumstance meant she moved to Birmingham when she was eighteen and left behind a kitten. It was (and still is) a source of great bitterness. Once we moved to London and started living together I’d say the subject of getting a cat was brought up by Polly on a weekly basis with the conversation always going the same way. I’d explain that our flat was too small and had no outside space. I’d also remind her about my allergy. Polly’s argument was less nuanced. “I want a cat why won’t you let me have a cat I hate you!”, pretty much sums it up.
It was moving from our tiny flat in Streatham to our current, slightly bigger flat in Selhurst that paved the way for Fergal. It struck me quite suddenly that Polly had never really denied me anything. I’d never once asked for something (oo-er) and had it shot down. Our flat was now big enough, Polly deserved to have something fluffy to cuddle other than myself and if she was willing for a notional cat to compromise itself into a dog, why not? Once I’d repeated all that to Polly I think we had Fergal pissing on our laminate within four weeks.
We’ve had him for two and a half years now and I love him insurmountably. He is my moon and my stars, he is my celestial Prince. To prove how much I care for him I’ll put this to you: can you imagine adoring a friend so much you’d forgive them for eating shit out of a nappy then trying to lick your face? I thought not. After that incident I reached the conclusion I’d probably forgive the little boy anything. Happily the affection is mutual. To prove that I’ll put something else to you: can you imagine continuing any relationship with the people who orchestrated your non-consensual castration? You’d have to go a long way to find forgiveness that powerful, I’m sure you’d agree.
Thanks to Fergal each monotonous day exits around a fluffy centre-piece of joy. If I tire from writing I’m able to join a sleeping Fergal on the sofa and marvel at his small paws. They are tiny and perfect and can utterly absorb me for well over half an hour. If I suddenly feel irritated about not seeing my friends I can find Fergal’s plastic Christmas tree toy (which looks so much like a sex toy it’s obscene) and throw it around with him for a while. His lack of co-ordination and self-awareness is totally captivating. If I find myself getting sad about it all I can just grab him for a quick hug and immediately feel better. I am so lucky to have Fergal around during lockdown, it would be so much worse without him. He’s also helped me appreciate Homeward Bound. What a wonderful film!
Progress with the play has slowed a little as I’ve decided to make some changes to the nature of the relationships between characters but I’m still chugging along. Finishing the First Act will be hugely gratifying and I’m not that far off! Thanks for reading.
Thomas Willshire is a writer/actor/comedian who just about lives in London with his wife, Polly and dog, Fergal. He considers himself the fortunate product of a supportive and loving environment.
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