Columnist, Veronica Clark: A true life shaggy story

Some call it vanity. My husband calls it denial. Whatever it is, I’ve finally admitted defeat. I need glasses. This became blindingly obvious when I went to collect my cocker spaniel dog, Maxwell, from the dog groomer. Max had been long overdue a haircut. I usually take him every three months, because, if I don’t, he grows a strange wolf-type fur along the ridge of his back. Think of a middle-aged man with an unnaturally hairy back, and you get the picture. Unfortunately, we’d missed his last ‘haircut’ because we were away in France. So when the dog groomer rang to say they’d had a cancellation and could I bring Max in that morning, I jumped at the chance. His fur was so straggly that he looked like he’d been sleeping rough for a month. My husband helped get Max, who thinks going for a walk is the most exciting thing known to dog, into the car. He loves car journeys - Max, not my husband - but he’s also a terrible fuss, shivering with excitement whenever we set off. Being a cocker spaniel, he also has the nose of a detective. As soon as we’d parked up, he’d already sensed a change in the air. Max probably would argue this point, but he always looks a million times better when he’s had a trim. The dog groomer does the ‘full package’, which includes emptying the ‘gland’. Now, as any dog owner will explain, it’s not something to be sniffed at. I once made the mistake of taking him to the vets where I had to hold him as they carried out the procedure. The smell was so bad that I couldn’t eat solid food for two days.

Springer Spaniel, Maxwell. Picture: Marie Caley D4268MC
Springer Spaniel, Maxwell. Picture: Marie Caley D4268MC

Like the vets, Max usually tries to bolt for the door when he realises where he is. But he must have caught a glimpse of his hobo fur as he passed the shop window because this time he went willingly. It was only when we went to collect him that my life-changing moment occurred.

“Oh, he looks great. You’ve done a wonderful job!” I gushed to the man behind the counter, as Max wagged his tail at the back of the shop.

“Max, Max!” I called out. “You look gorgeous!”

The man shot my husband a puzzled look. My husband shook his head and gave me a sideways glance. Even the dog looked over at me as though I was nuts.

“Er, that’s not Max,” the man said.

“It is!” I gasped, thinking I’d know my dog anywhere.

He shook his head.

“Well, he certainly looks like him,” I insisted, screwing up my eyes to take another look.

“You need glasses,” My husband butted in.

“But he looks just like him. Why, don’t tell me it’s a girl?” I gasped, thinking Max would kill me if he could hear the conversation.

“No he’s definitely a boy.”

I felt better. At least I’d picked the right sex.

“Although, I suppose his ears do look a little longer now you come to mention it.” I said, still squinting.

“That’s because he’s a poodle.” The man sniggered. “He’s not even the right breed!”

Just then, a macho-looking Max padded out from the back of the shop. He was clearly twice the size, and didn’t look very impressed by his haircut, or by me. I glanced from the poodle to Max, and back again. The poodle’s eyes screamed ‘stranger danger’ as though I might dognap him at any moment.

“Now do you believe me?” My husband remarked as we climbed back into the car.

“About what?”

“You almost picked up the wrong dog. Veronica, you need your eyes testing.”

Needless to say, I’ve booked an appointment.