I Hung Out With A Glorious Dog For The Day And You Can Too
If you can't borrow a feeling, borrow a dog.
If you're going to hang out with a dog for the day, the first thing you'll need is a dog.
There are many ways to get a dog, all of which should be carefully considered. This is a living being we're talking about. This is not a fucking game, Daphne.
For those considering a permanent dog, then consider first adopting one. The RSPCA will even match you with the perfect pet.
I can't adopt a dog, because I'm a barely functional adult with a tiny flat, prone to both misadventure and melancholy. Also, my landlord explicitly forbade it, in case I experience a single moment of joy among the screaming misery of my waking hours.
Luckily, there exists a site named BorrowMyDoggy that sets up time-poor dog owners in UK and Ireland with those unfortunate souls who have plenty of time but lack in dog. Unfortunate souls like me. I set up a profile and dropped them a line.
I'm not a dog expert – I can barely look after myself – but as we discovered that time I built a desk, and that other time I built a blanket fort, I'm just a lonely man in need of a friend. This is my story.
1. Get a dog.
Enter Milo the golden retriever. And what an entrance. Look at that face! Just the most glorious goddamn dog one could well imagine. I grew up with golden retrievers, and love their cheery disposition, loyalty, and pleasant aesthetic. They're everything I'm not.
I met his owner and somehow passed as a functional adult. She gave me consent to borrow him for the day, and we set a date for the following week.
When the day arrived, I picked Milo up from his house at 10am, and quickly fell in love. As we took the bus back to my flat, I showed him off on Twitter, where he now has a loyal fandom, among them, noted party-enthusiast Andrew W.K.:
2. Bask in the glory of his company as you work.
As I was working from home, I had to at least appear to be doing work. Milo paced around a little before setting himself down behind my seat.
Even this early in our friendship he wanted to stay close, his presence a source of comfort amid the black void of existence. Canine company comes highly recommended for those suffering depression and anxiety. Within minutes it was clear why.
Rather than music, I just listened to him breathe, the quiet reassurance of another living being enough to temper my anxiety and balance my mood.
Then he let out an almighty fart.
Milo does not give a fuck about the tranquil ambience of your workspace.
3. Don't work too hard.
Every time I got up from the desk, Milo got up too: panting, tail-wagging, wondering what kind of hijinks we'd get up to next, tilting his head at yet another mug of coffee.
So, once I'd sacrificed enough blood and tears to the internet gods, we had playtime. His owner had given me his favourite toy, and at the production of the penguin he was positively exuberant, skipping merrily and sinking his teeth into its foam-stuffed flesh.
My face was using strange new muscles. I believe it's called smiling.
4. Leave the house.
The excitement of the toy was nothing compared to how excited he got when I put on shoes. Shoes! I entertained new possibilities: If Milo could get this excited about shoes, then perhaps other things are worth getting excited about?
I left his short lead at home and opted instead for the extendable lead, which would allow him room to roam around the park without letting him run free. No one wants to be the guy who lost Milo. Andrew W.K. would be so disappointed.
At the park the air was fresh and the soil pungent. We ran around giddy and free, smelling everything. We scratched out scents from other dogs! We peed on trees and plants! We shat happily in front of perfect strangers, and then scooped it up!
In the words of Lou Reed: Oh, such a perfect day.
5. Stay out for a while.
Being outside in the daytime is a strange experience, and usually one that is transitory for me; getting to work, for example, or travelling between places I'm protected from the gaping oblivion of life. But with Milo, being outside – just being – was actively pleasant.
Our tour of east London took us down to the canal, and we walked the towpath under blue spring skies. Basking in the glow of sun and dog stewardship, I felt at ease in the world, as if life had purpose: to smell everything while making way for bikes and prams.
Strangers approached us smiling. Not just at him, but at me, for bringing this beacon of delight into their day. I found myself making eye contact, smiling back, and engaging in conversation. "His name is Milo," I'd say. "He's 7. Why yes, he is handsome. Thank you."
Daylight makes everything clearer. Like the fact that there is a ton of shit in the grass along the towpath.
6. Towel him down.
After an hour of air and exercise we arrived home. Because he couldn't take his shoes off, judicious wiping of feet was necessary in case he trod in the shitty grass along the canal, of which there is plenty. Seriously, the grass to turd ratio is like, 1:1.
He happily raised each paw as I wiped, fully practised in this routine. He even took the towel from me when I was done.
Then he humped the towel.
7. Water the dog.
Unlike me, Milo is great at hydrating. He drinks a fuck-ton of water, which I believe is the scientific term. I kept a bowl topped up for him in the bathroom, where he could access it when he got thirsty.
Julie, my ex, once told me I wasn't very responsible, and that I had no friends. Well, fuck you Julie, look at me now. I have Milo, and he is fully fucking hydrated.
8. Let sleeping dogs lie.
Tired from the walk, he took up a position in the middle of the flat, resting quietly while I finished my workday. Laying out fully, he filled the room. Another reminder, if I needed one, that borrowing a dog was my only option in present circumstances.
I checked on him and he checked on me. At various intervals he'd come over and say hi, ducking his head under my arm so I'd pat him, nudging me softly when I stopped. There was never more than 20 minutes when he didn't come over.
It was never intrusive. Not like 4am texts from Julie. I mean, she left me, ffs.
As the afternoon rolled into evening, it was time to take Milo home. He bounced around excitedly as I put on shoes, packed his bag and fastened the leash to his collar.
Travelling by train to nearby Finsbury Park, we encountered the start of rush hour: packed carriages of grey faces, weary from a day of toil. Only the faces weren't all their usual grey: Everyone who saw Milo instantly beamed.
We arrived at his house just in time for his dinner, and I handed over dog and bag. His owners, a friendly couple who run a business from home, were glad I enjoyed my day with him, and were no doubt happy to see him returned on time and in one piece.
I took the train home alone. I'd made a friend, and now he was gone. I listened to sad songs and looked at my shoes, rendered plain and unexciting in his wake. Life seemed little more than a Milo-shaped hole.
9. Here is a macro image of dog hair on my sweater.
Behold the meagre remnants of my time with Milo, courtesy of the sweet macro function on my camera. This is literally the only time the macro function has proved useful rather than merely decorative: in documenting one of the various ways he left an impression.
As he left behind hair, so too did he leave another gift. A less visible gift, something no macro function could account for: slobber. The sleeves of this sweater are covered in it. I'm wearing it anyway. I'm never taking it off. I'll fight you.
10. Feel the aching emptiness of post-dog existence.
This is what heartbreak looks like. The water bowl sat in my bathroom late into the night. I was at odds to remove it, lest it force me to admit that Milo might not be coming back anytime soon.
I'm also lazy.
As I sat in my blanket fort, bereft, broken, I looked at the comments coming through on Twitter and Instagram, how many days had been brightened with just a picture of this majestic dog – a dog I'd had the fortune to actually spend the day with. IRL.
Milo had taught me so much: to get excited about the little things. That shoes mean adventures. That leaving the house can be a wondrous experience. That shitting in front of strangers is an activity to be embraced.
That sometimes you just have to hump the towel.
I cycled through my photo album and returned to the picture I felt summed up my day with Milo. Just him, resting his head on my thigh as I worked. A quiet, affirming gesture that put a broken heart back together.
I hope I'll see him again, but until then: So long, Milo, and thanks for everything.
BorrowMyDoggy is currently operating in the UK and Ireland only. Thanks to Rikke from BorrowMyDoggy for help with this article. Thanks to Milo for being Milo.