Why I would rather get a divorce than a dog, says Antonia Hoyle
20:56 GMT, 5 August 2012
My worst nightmare had come true. A vile creature was clinging to my body, its teeth tearing at my clothes, its scaly tongue covering my skin with nauseating drool.
Its eyes bore into me with a triumphant glint that reminded me I was at its mercy. I pleaded for it to stop, but it ignored me. Paralysed by fear, I closed my eyes and prayed for the terror to end.
But I wasn’t trapped in a frightening dream — it was 3pm last Saturday afternoon and my friend Johnny’s Yorkshire terrier was clawing at my leg.
Puppy love Not for Antonia Hoyle
To make matters worse, rather than prizing the ghastly canine away from me, Johnny stood back and laughed at my evident discomfort.
Because, like nearly everybody else I know, Johnny regards dogs not as an undesirable menace, but as a delightful addition to everyday life. And rather than shiver in disgust in their presence, he thinks I should simply be flattered by the attention.
I tried to force a smile so as not to cause offence, but the truth is that I don’t like dogs. I never have and I never will.
Everything about them makes my stomach turn — the way they smell (like mouldy socks), the way they foul (any where they like; my street seems to be their favourite place), the way they moult (is there anything more repellent than a dog hair-strewn sofa) and, most of all, the way they make a beeline for me whenever I’m in their midst.
‘It’s because he knows you’re scared of him,’ my friend Anna laughed the other week, as her exuberant Cocker spaniel wrenched my handbag from my grasp. Well, excuse me for not seeing the funny side.
I’m well aware that by writing this I am breaking a taboo. We are a nation of dog lovers and to admit to being anything but is akin to suggesting I want to sell my grandmother into slavery.
Antonia Hoyle is not afraid to admit her dislike of man's best friend
There wasn’t an incident in my childhood that put me off dogs. I haven’t been the victim of a Rottweiler attack (although the danger these dogs pose further proves my point). I’m not an animal-hater. In fact, I grew up on a farm and the sight of a duckling or freshly shorn sheep still leaves me joyful at the wonder of nature.
It’s not as if I can even specify which dogs I detest. They all have something about them. Granted, Chihuahuas look like rats and Great Danes like gangling, cumbersome outcasts, but they both raise my blood pressure.
Yet I seem to be entirely alone in feeling like this. TV shows, adverts, films and celebrity culture encourage us to fawn over dogs’ so-called loveable natures, their intelligence and their loyalty.
But what is so intelligent about running up and down a garden in pursuit of a stick
And how can being nice to the person who supplies you with food and water be construed as anything other than displaying a basic survival instinct
One theory is that we Brits are so uptight, we find it easier to direct our affection towards creatures who won’t reject it. Whatever the reason, such was the excitement when dancing dog Pudsey won the TV show Britain’s Got Talent this year, I was surprised there wasn’t a national holiday declared in his honour.
Never mind that he was up against a young man with one of the biggest vocal talents we had witnessed for years. A fluffy mutt rolling around on all fours before running through a hoop was apparently more worthy of our respect.
He even captured the heart of Simon Cowell, something no human has thus far succeeding in doing.
And now there is another reason we should all keep a canine. A study earlier this month revealed that having a dog as a pet can prevent babies developing breathing problems and infections.
Apparently, being exposed to them strengthens babies’ immune systems. Well, call me callous, but I’d rather my one-year-old daughter Rosie fell victim to the occasional cold than surround her with dog drool, excrement and heaven knows what else for the sake of her health.
But I’m certainly in a minority. Disliking dogs is such a taboo that it is more acceptable to admit you can’t stand babies.
Granted, there is no shortage of ‘I don’t like dogs’ forums online, and Mumsnet, whose members aren’t known for their reticence, is awash with fervent debate about whether dogs are adorable or a dangerous menace. But their critics are anonymous, seemingly too scared to go public.
It’s not even as if I have my nearest and dearest to back me up. My husband Chris, a stockbroker, has made it quite clear that when we move out of London, he wants a dog. I’ve made it even clearer that he won’t be getting one. I’d rather file for divorce than let a mutt into my home.
Yet Chris still has his heart set on owning a golden retriever called Ralph. ‘He won’t care what’s happened to the markets,’ he explains pleadingly and with increasing regularity. ‘He’ll welcome me home after a hard day at work and give me loads of affection.’
It’s hard not to feel affronted. I don’t care what the markets have done and I rather hoped cooking Chris dinner and doing the washing-up afterwards was affection enough.
In any case, what about our daughter Doesn’t the affection he gets from our toddler suffice Apparently not, he says, adding: ‘Rosie would love having a dog to play with. It’s only you who has a problem. What’s wrong with you’
To which the answer is: nothing. I simply don’t like dogs. And no amount of clever advertising, peer pressure or spousal campaigning is going to change that. I just wish everyone else would learn to deal with it.