Lockdown has proved Mum loves our dogs more than me (as she’s happy to admit)
By Daisy & Anna Pasternak
The family’s two wire-haired dachshunds, Humphrey and Hugo, take priority in the Pasternak household
Everyone is struggling during lockdown and learning a lot about themselves and their families. While boarding at Cheltenham Ladies College primed me for the prison-like aspect of all of this, nothing could have prepared me for the realisation that my mother loves our dogs – wire-haired dachshunds, Humphrey and Hugo – more than me.
I have always come home from school to a feeling of adoration. However, this period has opened my eyes to my mother’s true priorities and stoked my longheld suspicion that the dogs rule supreme.
My mother is a goody-two shoes – she follows rules fastidiously, so we have not been to asupermarket since lockdownbegan. Leaving the house to go to the pet shop in search of organic dog chews, however, is deemed “essential”. She bulk-ordered the dogs’ bedtime biscuits, so our shelves are groaning with overpriced canine treats, but we’re running out of rice.
Last week, I fainted because my blood sugar was so low – I am restricted to a quarter of avocado on a piece of rye bread for breakfast. Afterwards, Mummy said her main concern was if my condition worsened, she would be in a pickle as there was no way she would take me to the hospital. However, when Hugo was producing extra eye gunk, we were at the emergency vet’s within the hour.
Whenever I have had nits, Mummy has said that she couldn’t possibly use the nit comb. Apparently, it “freaked her out.” Frankly, she didn’t have the patience. She would either pay her hairdresser to de-louse me or, with total irresponsibility, send me back to school alive with them, saying “the matrons are far more experienced at this.” Yet last week, when she discovered a tick in Humphrey’s ear, after a bout of hysteria, she was patience personified, carefully extracting the tick with tweezers. I could only stare, gobsmacked.
There is something strangely similar to Brideshead Revisited’s Sebastian Flyte about my mother. Where Sebastian’s narcissism puts his teddy bear, Aloysius, at the centre of all conversations, my mother does the same with the dogs. I want to be an actress, but it’s not me she sees in starring roles. After each episode of recent ITV drama *Belgravia*, she would say: “Hugo would make a perfect Charles Pope. He’s so good natured.” Never: “You were made for Lady Maria Grey.”
If I leave a jumper in the kitchen, I am admonished for not respecting “Mummy’s space.” Yet she finds it endearing if any of us trip over the dog toys littered across the floor.
After every dog walk, I have to hand wash the dog’s harnesses. She was livid when she found a patch of dried mud under Hugo’s armpit which hadn’t been tenderly wiped off after a walk, but remains unphased by my matted lockdown hair. I crave leaving the house but we are only allowed out in the car once a week for 20 minutes because “the dogs are getting bored.”
During my first year at boarding school, I was desperately homesick. One weekend, my mother rented a house in Cheltenham to stay in. Hugo peed on the carpet. Unable to bear the rental company thinking ill of the dogs, she told them I had spilt orange juice. She is nonchalant about our pee-stained carpets at home, yet shouts at me if I so much as spill a glass of water on the stairs.
Throughout the Autumn term I was desperate for a tweed coat. I was refused; it was “too expensive”. Yet I came home to find both dogs in matching tweed coats from their visit to a local dachshund pop-up event. The blow was softened with the justification that “the dogs had a wonderful time.”
She is currently planning our next eight-hour drive to Edinburgh as soon as lockdown ends, so that the dogs can “see their dachshund cousins” – Dudley and Digby, owned by my aunt. Yet when I expressed an interest in going to (the significantly closer) Exeter University, she told me with total seriousness, that she would never visit, as it was simply too far away.
It’s true, I doANNA PASTERNAK
Yes, I am guilty as charged on every count. I have loved my dogs more than my quaranteenager in lockdown. Why? Because the dogs are unfailingly ready the nanosecond I am, to go for a walk. Every time I ask Daisy to do anything, like unload the dishwasher, first, she has to change her clothes, or rearrange her clothes or put on some clothes. Then she spends hours applying eyeliner to walk to the village. The dogs do not spend their spare time buying and selling clothes on Depop, then demanding I take endless packages to the village post office because they “don’t understand how it all works.”
The dogs look at me adoringly, whatever dishevelled state I am in. They do not tell me, as Daisy did yesterday, that I look “like a member of the Taliban” because I am wearing a linen collarless shirt. The dogs do not have a burst of manic energy in the evening. They sit outside their crate, at 5.45pm, waiting for their daily 6pm lockdown – a bedtime biscuit and night of secluded peace. After the endless drudge of domesticity, this is my lowest point of the day. But it’s Daisy’s high point. As I’m preparing supper, she insists that I do insanely complicated TikTtok dances, then mocks my complete lack of rhythm, hysterical with laughter. But I don’t need a daily
audition for the musical she seems to imagine her life is, singing endless songs and dancing manically.
She takes the most unflattering photographs of me in my dressing gown, looking like an aged, fat, polar bear, then posts them on her private Instagram ‘stories’. When I complain, she scoffs: “It’s creepy that you care what a load of teenage boys think of you.” Weirdly, I do. And let’s face it. The dogs love watching whatever I want to watch on television. They don’t insist that I “get into Cooked with Cannabis or Too Hot to Handle, so we can have “quality time together.”
Hasn’t lockdown ensured that we’ve had far too much of that, already?