I have a confession to make. My name is Scott Andrews and I am a canine addict.
Since I was a child I have found dogs to be almost mystical. The hours I have spent, staring in wonderment at an animal whose sole reason to exist appears to be to satisfy us, is beyond compare. As a teenager I was as awkward as they come. I often hid myself behind a straggly beard in a bid to become invisible. That all changed the day Bracken walked into my life. From that moment on, everywhere I went people wanted to talk to me because of this beautiful Border Collie that accompanied me everywhere. Suddenly that ethereal, improbable species – the human girl – wanted to talk to me, wanted to go for walks with me, and mostly just wanted to spend time with my dog. This Border Collie, an extraordinary black and white beast, led me from my social anxiety and showed me that there was a different way to live.
As the years passed by and I crossed continents that longing for another dog to fill the hole that Bracken left never disappeared. It was not until some years later that I found myself sitting on the floor of a house in the middle of nowhere, in a Polish village with a name entirely made of consonants, when a stout-looking Scottish Terrier climbed onto my lap. It was a behaviour he only repeated twice to date, and it was a moment when I knew my life was set to change. Unsurprisingly, a Border Collie was no preparation for a Scottish Terrier. They were chalk and cheese. The sense of responsibility overwhelmed me. I had adopted a dog that had never left his house, never met a strange dog, had never been for a walk and was properly suffering from agoraphobia. I felt completely insufficient and utterly terrified and fell back to the only thing that I knew: I read. I read like I had never read before. I devoured book after book after book about dogs. I searched the internet in a desperate bid to find the answer, the key which would help my dog better understand the world he was living in.
Much like every addict, soon enough the books weren’t enough. I started studying course, course after course after course. I collected certificates like a Premier League footballer collects STDs. I became a qualified instructor and dog handler. And I read more books. I got certificates in canine aggression and more instructor skills. And read more. And then I got more dogs. I studied canine evolution and canine cognition. I can now say that I have a qualification from Duke University in the Grand ole’ USA. And then I gained more dogs. And I read even more books, and more studies and filled my brain to the point that I now needed to let out some of the pressure from time to time to prevent my head from exploding.
Did I find the answer? Of course not. What I did learn is the golden truth of dog ownership: we will never feel sufficient. It is an impossible deal. Dogs offer us unconditional love, judgement free companionship and a miraculous, quite improbable sense of joy. We offer belly rubs, walks in the rain, and on occasion, a lovely treat. They are getting the bum deal and always will. Quite frankly, we have no chance of ever being able to pay it back.
I have learned one other thing. I am now every dog owner’s living nightmare. I am the stranger in the dirty anorak and unshaven chin that comes over to stroke your dog and gives you a three hour lecture about canine studies into developmental delay in adolescence, and what it means to left handed dog owners teaching their right pawed dogs to fetch. I am a professional dog bore and I cannot get enough. I have this enormous love of dogs that drives me to keep learning in the hope that I can be the best canine care giver that I can and until recently I haven’t had an outlet for it.
When the opportunity to embrace my inner canine nerd and record a podcast came up I felt it was too good to turn down. Normally when I talk to people about dogs they say ‘leave me alone, I’m going to call the police’. I am able to trap someone in a room and they voluntarily talk to me about dogs. They don’t try to run away. They don’t even scream. They actually ask questions and seem interested.
So it gives me great pleasure to introduce the pilot episode of the podcast ‘Talk2ThePaw’ featuring me as the canine nerd, and the magnificent Caroline Bartley on broadcasting duties. By all means have a listen and let me know what you think.