This is Ruby sitting on her favourite step. The location is perfect. She can keep an eye on the front door which is unfortunately made of glass. Such is her territorial instinct that she extends her concern not only to our modest front garden but to the entire road. Anything that goes up or down the road is barked at except of course burglars and postmen.
Ruby will be nine in July, one of a litter of 4 pups that were born to her bichon frise mother in Blessington County Wicklow. She has a genealogy longer than our family. We are using the 1901 Census to find out about our grandparents. Ruby goes back 9 generations, no problem.
The family speculates that her great grandmother was actually a sheep who met a handsome dog at a barn dance somewhere outside of Paris. In support of our theory we point to her white fluffy coat which is pure wool. You could make an Aran sweater, if you had the time and the tiny needles. When she runs she gambols like a sheep and travels obliquely - a little like the knight in chess - forward and sideways at the same time.
Our youngest daughter who loves animals of all types begged us to get a dog. She was allergic to dog hair so I was able to postpone the decision for years (you are either a dog person or your not (or you become one)). My wife always had a dog at home. We never had. Eventually I succumbed to blatant lies - 'it wont cost you a penny' - 'you won't have to walk her' - 'you wont even notice her.'
For a start her hair cut costs a multiple of mine. I am accused of cheating because I managed to get a haircut from a Lithuanian barber in Dun Laoghaire for five euro before Christmas.
The point of this article is to suggest that dogs may actually be human and if that is the case they should have rights.
As I have discovered, dogs can share all our emotions - fear, envy, anger, generosity, gratitude and stubbornness. When my wife takes a break with 'the girls' and returns she is not immediately forgiven. Ruby turns round and gives the world her bum while she sulks for about an hour. Eventually she seems to forgive and the tail starts wagging again.
If there is a judgement day, is it possible we will be judged on the way we treat animals? The way we look after our pets reflects often the way we look after others. St. Peter won't bother with all the questions about tax returns and the cardinal sins - he will just ask us how we treated our pets.
Then there is the theory that over time we begin to look like our pets. I have believed the reverse to be the case - over time they begin to look like us - and none of us is getting any younger. No wonder people feel sorry for our dog.
I love the pets cemetery in the Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. There are monuments to dogs and horses. It gives the impression that the animals were very much part of the family. They have headstones far more impressive than I will ever enjoy.
In recent times I have come to question the way we treat our pets. Should animals be our playthings? Or should they be free to roam like Lassie on the prairie? Do we diminish them and ourselves by keeping them in our houses which become mini zoos? Are animals created for our enjoyment or do they have rights? I just don't know.