I am a ridiculously early person. If possible, I tend to be at least 30 minutes early for everything. These days, this is an excuse to get some extra reading time; it used to be an opportunity for a glass of wine to settle my nerves when jumping into a party.
On the night in question, I was almost an hour early and could not locate an open pub. I was in a part of east London that I had never visited, and I didn’t even know the host of the party, Charlie. I only knew the guy who had invited me, and he wasn’t likely to arrive for another hour or two.
So I went to Charlie’s house. To get me out of the way while he finished setting up, he took me to the spare bedroom and introduced me to his new French bulldog puppy. I fell in love immediately.
I spent the entire night in the room with the puppy.
For seven years in my 20s, I worked as a European sales rep for a celebrity photography agency, traveling almost all of the time and barely spending enough time at home to switch laundry, let alone have a boyfriend or a steady routine. But I had recently changed jobs and was working on a magazine; my hours had settled. That evening at the party, I realized I was finally ready for the one thing that I had always wanted: a pup.
I grew up with a springer spaniel named Lacy, who used to get jealous of the books I read and put her paw in the middle of the page to draw my attention. Towards the end of her life, at the beginning of my senior year in high school, she got into bed with me. Upset by this unusual behavior, I woke my mom; she reasoned that my bed was lower than the bed where Lacy had slept for my entire life and so was easier on the old girl’s hips. Lacy spent that final year that I lived at home sleeping with me every night. She died in my first weekend away at college and her gentle, silly ways have stayed with me.
To have a puppy of my own: that was the dream. But was it selfish? Could I handle the responsibility? The plan had a lot of things going for it. I lived opposite the Royal Veterinary College. The house I lived in had a dog door in the back – and I had already settled on a name. My flatmate and I were obsessed with The Wire and I thought naming a dog McNulty would be a brilliant barometer for future romantic and platonic friends. I just had to convince my flatmate that I was ready for the imagined McNulty.
That night at the party, I decided that it was time. I was ready.
I found a breeder a few weeks later and was put on a waiting list. I put the mother dog and did all the health checks prior to meeting my pup. My McNulty is a cavalier King Charles spaniel and a smaller version of Lacy – same coloring and markings. I didn’t even realize I had copied her until my sister pointed it out.
It is now 13 years later. McNults and I have been through jobs, loves, my mother dying, my quitting booze and her enlarged heart. We have been through life together. She is now in a dog buggy, as she can’t walk for very long and it is the best way to keep her with me for as much of the day as possible. We have come as a pair for the past 13 years. Yes, I am that crazy dog lady; when I say “we”, I mean me and McNults.
Our social gatherings almost all shifted to dog-friendly venues and she is a “dogmother” to a friend’s daughter. She has been on Sky News, she is a Moshling (for those of you who remember Moshi Monsters) and she makes a cameo in Dolly Alderton’s book Everything I Know About Love. She has been my absolute constant.
We are inseparable. Adopting her is the best decision I ever made. McNulty got me through the worst period of my life, through grief, and now I will be with her as her life comes to an end. We stop in my local pub every night as our landlady, Lisa, gives her lots of biscuits while I have a Diet Coke. She taps on the door as we walk by (even if the pub isn’t open).
I know I don’t have long left with her, but she has been so loved and treasured. She is irreplaceable. Oh, and yes, she has met the real McNulty (the actor Dominic West) – and the picture was my Christmas card. Not sure she was bothered.