When I first started my dog walking company I was bemused by the number of dog-themed cards I would get on my birthday and at Christmas. It started to become unusual not to receive a card without a dog on it. Presents were wrapped in dog paper and in them lurked dog notebooks, dog paper clips, dog stickers and dog soap. It annoyed me. Just because I liked dogs and had decided to work with them didn’t mean that I wanted to be submerged in pooch paraphernalia. There was more to me than that.
I got engaged and received cards with dogs walking down the aisle in suits and meringues or clinking glasses of champagne. Wedding presents were predominantly canine in theme and included dog mugs, a framed picture of a dog jumping over a hedge and a sign that said ‘It’s me or the dog.’ My new husband laughed, nervously as I propped it up in the kitchen. We had also been given a real dog, a Jack Russell, a wedding present to trump all others.
The dog cards continued. Jack Russells now became a theme, along with poodles, West Highland terriers, collies and Labradors. When our daughter was born, someone kindly sent me a congratulations card with a pug in a nappy sucking a dummy on it. The babygros had dachshunds on. Dog doorstops, corkscrews and candle holders, a Labrador stapler and a piece of slate in the shape of a pointer. A whole cottage industry.
But as the birthdays and anniversaries rolled by, I started to enjoy the challenge my loved ones faced as they struggled to find a card they hadn’t already sent me. I would notice the cards myself, in book shops and garden centres across the country. After our second child was born I was feeling low. Tired and grumpy, I bought my husband a Valentine card that said, ‘SCREW VALENTINES DAY, DANCE WITH A DOG’. He reciprocated on my birthday with, ‘Cheer up. In dog years you are probably dead.’
I have bought dog cards ever since. Whatever the occasion, there will be a dog to help convey your sentiment. And it works because the dog is a universal symbol of love and hope, of friendship and loyalty. They carry our better selves with them. That and the fact that pugs have very silly faces.
Perhaps I am drawn to them more by being a dog owner myself and utterly obsessed with the two small creatures that now share our home. Perhaps as I got older I worried less about the boxes people put you in and the labels we all collect. Along with many other things, I am a dog person.