Many of us self-employed writers need other sources of income thanks to the fact that writing alone does not cover all our living expenses. Indeed when my dad decided to retire to concentrate on writing full time, he only felt confident doing it because, after 30 years in the force, he would benefit from a police pension.

I make sure I have a number of strings to my bow too. My children used to plead with me to get a dog, and I held out for years, until I eventually (sort of) caved in, but in a way that suits us all. Instead of owning our own dog, we now look after other people’s. But after doing it for the past ten years, I have a question: Do any of you feel that your pets punish if you go away? I have heard several owners say such things, that their dogs or cats go into sulks, or misbehave as a way of getting their own back for leaving them.

I was recently house-sitting with two young Hungarian Vizslas. These beautiful chestnut-red hounds are traditionally gun dogs and can make excellent family pets. They’re really intelligent and affectionate, but are bursting with energy, a bit like the canine versions of Tigger.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Hungarian Vizsla dogs can make lovely family pets, but beware if you dare to go away and leave

These particular dogs were were not allowed into the smarter rooms in the house, nor upstairs, and spent most of their time in the large open-plan kitchen/living room. Halfway through the stay, though, I had to go away for one night, so someone else cared for them. The morning after getting back, I was jolted from a deep sleep by a tremendous thundering noise. Springing awake, I sat up to see the bedroom door fling open and the two hounds bounding towards me. They leapt up and crash landed on top of me.

Not only had they managed to open the kitchen door (which they had never done before), but they had galloped up the stairs to find me, something that was absolutely forbidden. I reasoned it must be because I’d slept in and they were starving. But when I checked the time, it was still only 7.30am, half an hour before their breakfast time. They had clearly decided I needed an alarm call!

Darlington and Stockton Times: I’m convinced the Hungarian Vizsla dogs I looked after punished me for going away by digging

That was just the start of the punishment. The two normally well-behaved dogs were little blighters the whole day long. I let them out into the garden to play, only for them to come back inside a few minutes later with their noses and paws covered in mud. When I went out to investigate, I was horrified to find they’d dug a great big hole in the flowerbed outside the back door. Not only that, but they had sprayed mud all over the patio, and then paddled it indoors.

I filled the hole, and cleaned the patio and kitchen floor, satisfied that the house-proud homeowners would not be able to tell what had happened. By the time I had done that, I turned round to see two more huge holes had appeared at the other end of the garden, and some newly planted flowers had been uprooted and catapulted across the lawn.

I swore inwardly, then took my shovel and filled the new holes as best I could, trying to salvage whatever flowers were not completely destroyed.

Darlington and Stockton Times: I’m convinced the Hungarian Vizsla dogs I looked after punished me for going away by digging

But it didn’t end there. Every time my back was turned, more holes appeared in the lawn and flowerbeds. I resorted to staying outside whenever they were outside, assuming they wouldn’t dare do it while I was in the vicinity. I was checking emails on my tablet, and then looked up to see they’d gone back to the same spots and dug up the flowers again. In silence! How did they do that without me hearing a thing when I was only a few feet away? Cunning little devils.

In the end, I gave up filling in the holes, and resorted to placing garden tubs and furniture in the spots to try to divert them away. It seemed to work, and for the rest of the stay, the dogs behaved mostly very well. I’m convinced they had sentenced me to one day of punishment for the crime of going away.

It makes me wonder, do your dogs ever punish you?

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