This excerpt is from a unique and unforgettable book, Olive, Mabel and Me, about two dogs and their extraordinary chronicler Andrew Cotter. The three became YouTube sensations earlier this year. In this chapter we learn how daily life in the Cotter household was changed by two roommates of dogs.
Once upon a time many years ago, we had beautiful things. Those halcyon days of clean furniture and chic clothes are now nothing more than a distant memory. Please don’t get me wrong. In terms of companionship and overall happiness, Olive and Mabel have changed our lives much for the better – it’s just the state of our belongings that is much worse. If you want to get a house to the perfect show home standard, Labradors are not a viable option.
The vacuum cleaner runs permanently, but as soon as it has filled, the floor, the sofas, the dog beds and all exposed food seem to be covered again with a veneer that is a mixture of yellow and black. I can brush and brush the dogs, the fur peeling off in clouds, and it makes no difference. With Mabel in particular – with the exception of a molt-free window of about four days in August – it just goes on as if there is no permanent dog under it. I think if I brushed long enough I could just comb them down to a nose, paws, and blinking eyes.
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We don’t have any clothes that are safe either. In the only Olive days, dark dresses were a great option as they didn’t show the fur that was inevitably plastered on them. Now they are claimed by thousands of tiny blonde hairs and as a result, all clothes suffer.
I’m not exactly sure how it happened either, but our house now appears to be made almost entirely of dog beds. They can barely move without tripping over one, as if they themselves are following my grandparents’ dog breeding program. Olive and Mabel have their favorites and take turns using them depending on the time of day. In the morning in this, then an afternoon here, in the evening on the beanbag. Overnight I feel like … yes, this one. But then quite often they all lie empty and unused while the dogs stretch out on the couches and occasionally kick their legs as if to get rid of us. They usually have a harmonious approach to bed use. However, sometimes Olive decides she wants the bed Mabel happily sits in, and here we see clear evidence that our older dog is: a) not quite as dark as we make out, and b) a bit of a cow. She’ll suddenly go to the back door or the other side of the room and stare intently at something invisible but apparently intriguing – at which point Mabel feels like she has to hurry to find out what is alarming or intriguing her friend. The answer is absolutely nothing, of course, and so Mabel trudges back to the bed – only to find Olive there now, her eyes closed and a sign saying “Do not disturb” is hanging on her nose.
The line is drawn tight in their efforts to join us on our own bed. And by solid, I really mean pretty blurry. You might get invited on occasion, but anywhere near the pillows is out of the question. I love these dogs very much, but have always been wary of those who would accept a treat from one of their dogs while cooing, “Ooooo … kisses for mom” when everyone involved knew the terrible truth about that tongue just moments ago.
Plus, sleep is difficult when there are dogs in the bedroom. You could imagine slumbering calmly and serenely, but Labradors, like all of us from time to time, provide an orchestra of noise all night long. The decision that they are not feeling so well turns around, then comes a blow in the ears, followed by snoring at international competition level.
And when I own dogs, sleep is another thing that I’ve missed. Again, this will be very familiar to those who have young children, but while children eventually reach the stage where it is impossible to raise them up, it is the opposite with Olive and Mabel. Quite simply, our dogs are morning people.
Summers are the worst when daylight creeps into the living room they’re sleeping in, and around five thirty I can hear Olive going through her warm-up routine – a series of soft growls and very soft yips that eventually lead to that full-fledged “EVERYONE STANDS NOW ON BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT I WANT “Bark.
The best I can do is ignore them, but then I think of the neighbors and stumble down the stairs in a wooden middle aged way, which in God’s name is wrong with my knees to get off the two to be met jumping, happy souls, full of verve and strength.
“Nice to see you! What did it take you so long? I am firmly convinced that today will be AMAZING!”
The thing that irritates me the most (and reminds me that the lack of sleep makes me even more irritable) is that our dogs – all dogs – sleep much of the day after this early boom. Olive will be motionless for most of the evening – “I have to be ready to get you up at dawn!” Elsewhere in the canine world, I am told that greyhounds have a particular fondness for dozing and only stay awake about four out of twenty-four hours. Great speed clearly comes at a price, but I envy its rested owners.
Regardless of the breed of dog, they all have the special gift of being able to switch from fully awake to comatose within seconds if their mind so desires. No brain hums, no worries about jobs, taxes, viruses or life in general – it’s just a matter of “charging now” and turning off the lights. It means that we see them sleep a lot, which provides their own entertainment when they enter their dream state. Mabel is now writing this and is sitting next to me on the sofa (uninvited). Her tongue sticks out, her eyes and nose twitch, and her front paws begin to gallop. We obviously imagine that she dreams of all sorts of great adventures, but she probably dreams of sleeping on the sofa.
I know we should really be dictating when our dogs do things, but if we’re honest, quite often a day is led by them. They are creatures of habit and they expected and actually asked for certain things at certain times of the day.
When we first got Mabel we were firm on feeding time. Their dinner was at 5.15pm, usually around the start of the TV quiz show Pointless (it gives a glimpse into the glamor of our lives). The regularity was such that until today Mabel only needs to hear the first few bars of the theme melody to perk up her ears, but the inquiries really start long before that.
Despite the fact that she is generally more greedy, Olive is much more relaxed about food arrangements – she is generally a calmer dog and knows it will happen. So why stress? While for Mabel, stress is an integral part of the procedure. She also believes that when her brain reminds her that she is in one, she can make most things happen with one gaze – sometimes the effect is lost if she falls asleep and slowly closes her eyes before waking herself up very difficult condition is located important mission. So she’ll fix us at least an hour in advance with a steely, but occasionally sloping look – and switch to the person she believes is more likely to provide him, and somehow fear that there will be one if she does don’t don’t eat and it will have been their own stupid fault not to remind us.
Then of course there are the requests (requirements) for walks. It used to be two walks a day until I once made the mistake of taking them out for a third late at night. The next day they sat around the same time and looked at me expectantly.
“For as long as we can remember, we’ve always taken a third walk at a quarter past ten. Now put on your coat. “
And when you go for a walk, you realize how much your life as a dog owner has really changed. You then see that even if you thought you were responsible for them, it is the other way around and you are now dancing to their music. Perhaps what you notice most is when they crouch with their backs rounded to relieve themselves from their very punctual breakfast or dinner waiting to complete your simple but important task of keeping the landscape clean and tidy.
The biggest outrage is when you bend down to pick it up and try to get it in your pocket while a flawed piece keeps escaping, and meanwhile Olive (because it always is) covers you with leaves and bits of grass, what strange is the celebration after a bowel movement, which dogs seem to enjoy and stir everything up with their hind legs. I swear she smiles as she holds it out.
“You enjoy picking this up, don’t you? Yeah … take this up. Who is the master now? “
While I am talking about such inelastic things, sometimes Olive doesn’t celebrate at all because of the enormous amount of weed she eats because the whole process doesn’t go smoothly. That only brings us further outrage. You can tell something has gone wrong when she either doesn’t reappear deep in the bushes or when you see her dragging her bum across the ground and waddling around, looking at you with eyes that say, “I’m not going to lie, that here I didn’t expect that to affect. “
So you’re using a paper-thin bag as a makeshift glove and pulling away blades of grass that probably didn’t include the last twenty-four hours of playing like that. You pull and pull and this intricately woven rope keeps coming back like one of those endless handkerchiefs from a magician’s sleeve. This is of course the case when a non-dog person walks around the corner and the sight that greets them is a sad Labrador in a crouching position and I leaned over, held their tail up, and started digging around.
“Hello! The JOY of owning a dog!” I scream in a way that is supposed to be cheerful but probably suggests genuine enthusiasm for the task, and they shake their head in compassion and disgust before notifying the authorities.
If you are reading this as a dog owner, there are sure to be parts of it that you recognize or understand. Or maybe you are someone who has thought of getting a dog but is now reviewing your options and a cat looks a lot more attractive.
All I would say is that despite the fact that our house is not what it was and the sofas are now in a shade that a color catalog on their color chart might call “uncomfortably off-beige”, though All clothes are now made A dog-hair mix and more than six hours of sleep are a thing of the past, although their wants and needs seem to rule our day. I couldn’t imagine ever living this clean, tidy, healthy and healthy-free life again.