“Lola! Stay near the edge so mummy can see you!”. “Milo! Come out now, you’ll catch a cold!” “Gracie, no splashing!”

One could be forgiven for thinking these were anxious parents directing their toddlers in a paddling pool. But, as far as I could recall, there wasn’t a paddling area on the part of Hampstead Heath where I was walking.

When the recalcitrant Lola, Milo and Gracie finally came into view, I realised these weren’t disobedient children. No, Lola, Milo and Gracie were of the canine variety and having a blast in the shallows of one of the Heath’s open ponds.

A large mixed breed dog launched itself into the water. Lola, Milo and Gracie’s owners ran towards their furries ensuring they hadn’t been traumatised by this, frankly, animal behaviour. The mutt wasn’t even wearing any bathing attire, unlike Lola, Milo and Gracie, who were all wearing various forms of swimming gear. One even had a buoyancy jacket. I kid you not.

Ham & High: Shelley-Anne Salisbury is amazed at how some people treat their dogsShelley-Anne Salisbury is amazed at how some people treat their dogs (Image: 1000words.co.za)

I’ve grown up with dogs and since had two of my own. All rescues, all mutts and all wonderful in their own doggy ways.

As we know, the trend for “getting a dog” boomed during the first lockdown. Small hypoallergenic dogs were in vogue. Breeders were in huge demand. Vets have seen an enormous increase in dog anxiety, particularly when the lockdowns lifted and we all started to go out again.

Lockdown Dogs couldn’t adapt to being home alone and many developed a whole slew of symptoms including alopecia, stomach upsets and rashes. Others resorted to attention seeking antics such as furniture-gnawing and pooping on carpets. It was boom time for animal therapists.

Look, I love my dog but she’s a DOG.

I don’t refer to myself as her ‘mummy’ or repeatedly push her face into a bowl of water because I’m worried she can’t regulate her own need for fluids.

I don’t buy her only organic, naturally sourced, overpriced dog chews. I certainly don’t buy that doggy ice cream which comes in tubs and flavours that look just like the human equivalent (I mean come on!).

I don’t dress my dog in anything but a collar and lead – the only exception being a waterproof coat (in a single colourway readers) for wet muddy walks to minimise the clean-up. And I will never ever succumb to one of those doggy pushchairs.

Let dogs be dogs. Honestly, they’ll thank you.

  • Shelley-Anne Salisbury is a mediator, writer and the co-editor of Suburb News, themediationpod.net.