Today is Oscar’s 8th birthday.

It’s a considerable milestone for a flatcoated retriever, one of the most delightful of dog breeds but sadly with an apparent pre-disposition to cancer. (I once saw an opinion piece in Dogs Today berating people for continuing to breed and purchase these “cancer factories,” – yes, I know – but the truth is that they are among the friendliest, most loving and gentlest of dogs, and that in itself makes it worthwhile trying to improve the health of the breed.) Flatties, for those who don’t know, were the original gamekeeper’s dog and only usurped by the ubiquitous labrador retriever at the end of the 19th Century.


A few years ago, when Oscar had that terrible condition where his nose was eaten away from the inside, both hard and soft tissue, by we know not what, we thought he would not see his 5th birthday. His recovery from his Idiopathic Destructive Rhinitis has, in many ways, been miraculous. The horrid condition left him unwilling to move out of touching distance of is people but otherwise he is as handsome and lovely as ever.

I have been musing recently about our relationship with animals. It seems to me that the world divides into those who love animals and those who could not care less about them and some who actively dislike them. Best to stay away from these latter people, because they’re unlikely to care for you much or show you any empathy.

Of the people who love animals, there is the well-known distinction between Cat People and Dog People. Some people like both but have a preference. Some, like me, start off as one and then eventually see the error of their ways and veer towards the other. Others strongly prefer dogs or cats for their various traits: generally Dog people love the unswerving loyalty and unconditional love of their pooches whereas Cat people admire their companions’ independence and are often disdainful of the waggy, licky muttface.

And then we come to dog owners. I have observed that there are Flatcoat people and then the others. People who have been owned by their flatcoats talk to them in proper sentences as one might speak to a best friend. We make birthday cakes for our lovely boys/girls and wrap up presents for them to open at Christmas or on their birthdays. For a flatcoat does not like to be left out of anything that his or her human is doing and they will be deeply hurt if they are not included.

Hence this scene:


Happy 8th birthday, darling boy! xxxxx