Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, way back when Lucy was young, sweet and innocent, and had only slept with about four people, and was full of hope and optimism, and not at all jaded by the dating cesspit, and back in the dark ages when smartphones hadn’t even been invented (I know, kids, can you imagine?!), and when no one had ever even thought of Brexit, and Donald Trump was just some self-important twat in a baggy suit (oh, wait…), well, back then, Lucy went on Match.com and met Sam the hot surgeon.
Sam, as you might have guessed, was hot. Hot AF, actually. He was about 6’4, slim and handsome, with ripped biceps and soft, floppy dark hair, which in 2008 was insanely sexy. And he was a surgeon, or presumably back then he was some sort of junior doctor who spent most of his time cleaning up blood and bodily fluids, which now Lucy comes to think about it isn’t sexy at all, but at the time he said he was a surgeon, so, y’know…
And so they had a date, and it went pretty well.
Sam and Lucy went on a few more dates, and did quite a lot of kissing outside tube stations, but he wasn’t actually a terribly good kisser, and although they stayed in touch for a while, emailing back and forth (I know, how retro!) eventually the whole thing fizzled out.
Fast forward ten years, and Lucy’s swiping on Bumble when up pops a face she recognises.
Even ten years later, you don’t forget a guy as hot as Sam. Only now, of course, he’s aged a bit and his hair is thinning – but he’s still handsome. So Lucy swipes right, because although things didn’t work out last time, maybe this time it’ll be different. Maybe the timing wasn’t right in 2008, but now their moment has finally come. Maybe now he’s learned how to kiss properly. Could Sam be The One, at last, after all these years?
It’s hard to know if Sam’s wondering the same thing, or if he doesn’t even remember her. But either way, it’s a match.
Lucy’s excited. She already knows Sam is hot, and now he’s legit a heroic lifesaving surgeon. Though that might depend on exactly what sort of surgery he does: she’ll be less delighted if he’s a colon and rectal surgeon or removes bunions day-in-day out. In an ideal world he’ll do brains, or hearts. Or plastics might be good, because then she might be able to get a discount on a boob job, which might perhaps boost her dating chances a little.
Oh FFS! thinks Lucy. Why is everyone so fucking obsessed with dogs?!
The Dog Problem
OK. Time for a confession. You might want to sit down for this, because you’re not gonna like it. In fact, you’ll probably think Lucy’s a serial killer or a psychopath, and immediately reach for the unfollow button, but it can’t be helped. So here it is:
Lucy doesn’t like dogs.
Now don’t get me wrong: she appreciates a funny dog video as much as the next girl, and who doesn’t enjoy playing with a cute puppy? But actual, adult dogs? In the same room? She simply doesn’t understand the fuss. Dogs usually smell, they have bad breath, they bark stupidly at random things, and they demand far too much attention. And don’t get her started on the shedding! Lucy grew up with dogs, and there was almost never a day when she didn’t find a black hair in the butter, or on her plate at dinnertime. It’s fucking disgusting.
And you know what’s even more gross than pet hair in your food? Picking up shit, for actual fuck’s sake! Why would you want to saddle yourself with the responsibility of having to follow something around with a pocketful of plastic bags, scraping warm faeces off the floor? Lucy did it just the one time with her mum’s dog, and getting that close to a stinky dogshit nearly made her vomit. No fucking way is she ever doing that again.
Lucy thinks it’s curious that man’s best friend is a dog, She wonders if it’s something to do with so many men’s narcissistic need to be adored unconditionally by something that can’t argue back. Meanwhile a girl’s best friend is diamonds. And they say women are the weaker sex?
Lucy’s Ex was obsessed with dogs and wanted one desperately. Lucy even began to wonder if he might have even been a dog in a former life. Here’s why:
- He liked humping things – mostly her.
- He liked licking her face. That’s not even a joke, he frequently did this weird ‘hilarious’ thing where he’d come up and slobber all over her cheek for no reason. Lucy supposed it was a sign of affection, but frankly, if he wanted to let her know he loved her, he could’ve just bought her cake.
- Whenever he saw a squirrel, he’d shout ‘squirrel!’ and stare at it.
- He had the attention span of a terrier.
- If any dog came within half a mile he had to go and play with it. Even if they were running late for a train or the entire street was on fire.
- He had the mental maturity of a spaniel.
- He loved chewing shoes.
Ok, maybe not the last one, but you get the picture.
Once, when Lucy and The Ex were eating pizza in their local pub, a man came in with a dog and sat down at the bar. The dog was on a long lead, and, smelling the pizza, came and sat hopefully under their table. And it was the grossest, rankest, stinkiest dog Lucy had ever come across, with damp, matted fur, wafting its pungent wet doggy smell right up into Lucy’s nostrils like a toxic cloud of acidic evil, so that her delicious pizza stopped tasting of hot melted cheese and carby goodness, and instead began to resemble a mouldy doormat. The Ex, meanwhile was absolutely besotted, gazing longingly at the revolting creature with far more adoration than he had ever displayed towards Lucy, and stroking it with his bare hands, while Lucy made a mental note not to let him touch her until he’d washed them – twice – and glared furiously at the oblivious owner who, of course, did fuck all about the fact that his disgusting pet was ruining Lucy’s evening – and, in fact, her life.
Because later, when they were breaking up, The Ex said THAT was the moment he knew he could never marry Lucy. Dog-boy simply couldn’t face the prospect of a life separated from his pack.
So no, Lucy can’t be doing with dogs. Or dog owners. She doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life playing second fiddle to a stupid animal, never being able to have spontaneous nights out or go on long holidays, or even eat a meal without being stared at by some drooling, stinky mutt. That’s why Lucy always swipes left on guys with dogs. At least she does if she’s been given fair warning.
But Sam didn’t warn her. He just went and rudely dropped this bombshell on her out of the blue. And it’s too late to back out now. She’s going to have to suck it up and see what happens.
The Big Question
They arrange to meet for dinner at the Riding House Cafe near Oxford Circus on a Tuesday night. But on the morning of the date, Sam sends Lucy a rather unnerving message.
Is this a test? wonders Lucy? Is this him asking her if she likes dogs? And if so, what the hell should she say? If she tells him the truth, he’ll probably cancel the date. And as much as she doesn’t like dogs, she’d be royally fucked off if he did that. She wants to meet him again, and she bloody washed her hair and put on an outfit this morning, so there’s no fucking way she’s letting all that effort go to waste.
So she dodges the question.
Oh Jesus Christ! Lucy thinks. He wants to bring his fucking dog on the date? WTF is wrong with people?! Now she will have to put up with some festering hairball sitting under the table stinking the place out while she’s trying to eat! And that is Not Cool.
But all she can do at this stage is pretend through gritted teeth that she’s ok with it, and see what happens.
As usual Lucy is deliberately, and precisely, five minutes late, and Sam, being a decent chap, is there first. When he sees her approaching he stands up and greets her with a kiss on the cheek.
“Well hello there! Long time no see! Meet Holly!”
Lucy looks down. Sitting quietly by Sam’s feet is a retriever-poodle cross, a rather small one, with glossy golden curls and patient brown eyes. Holly looks mournfully up at Lucy from under a shaggy fringe, sizing her up. She can clearly tell Lucy’s not a dog-lover, and she looks away scornfully.
Fuck off, Holly, stop judging.
As she sits down, Lucy checks Sam out. He looks much the same as she remembers from 10 years ago, though definitely not as hot, and her first reaction is that she doesn’t fancy him any more. She supposes he feels the same about her, of course. Much as she’d like to think she’s improved with age, she’s probably deluding herself, and where she optimistically sees sharper cheekbones, better make-up skills, and a more expensive haircut, everyone else only sees the extra lines and wrinkles and the angrier set of her jawline brought about by Other People and their endless fuckwittery.
Holly lies down under the table. Lucy’s hyper aware of her presence there, but surprisingly, she’s actually not that bothered by her. Unlike ALL other dogs, Holly’s very calm, very still, and, miraculously, doesn’t smell at all. What sorcery is this?! She simply lies quietly on the floor at her master’s feet, not causing any trouble. Lucy’s not sure she understands what’s going on, but she’s fucking relieved, that’s for sure. This potential nightmare has turned out OK after all.
Over dinner Lucy and Sam fill each other in on what they’ve been up to over the last ten years. It’s a pleasant enough chat, but like so many of her dates these days, Lucy feels nothing. Whatever it was that Sam had ten years ago, he doesn’t have it now. And we’re not just talking about biceps, and hair. There’s just no spark there any more. Lucy feels a little sad. Yet again, another date has turned out to be a letdown. They should really call it Online Disappointing, not Online Dating.
Lucy feels something touch her knee. At first she thinks maybe Sam is upping his game with a little bit of flirty contact, and for a moment she gets excited. Could there be more to him than meets the eye? But then she looks down, and sees that it’s not Sam who’s gently caressing her, but Holly, who is curiously – or possibly suspiciously – nudging her nose against Lucy’s leg.
Lucy’s not sure what to do. Under normal circumstances she’d recoil in horror, but she’s trapped between the table and the wall, and to show any sign of revulsion would be to lose face in front of Sam. So she sits quite still, and allows Holly to continue her investigations, and it turns out that actually the experience is not so terrible after all. Holly is surprisingly inoffensive, for a dog, and doesn’t seem to be begging for food; it’s more as though she’s curious about Lucy, can sense her disappointment, and is leaning in to offer a little friendly support.
Or is this a trick? Maybe Sam’s trained his pet to flirt with his dates so he doesn’t have to? Lucy wouldn’t put it past some guys to use a dog as a way to get into women’s knickers – she sees it all the time on dating app profiles, with men posing outrageously with cute puppies in an attempt to get them into bed. So could this be Sam’s way of compensating for his deficiencies by deploying Holly as a secret weapon? Has he trained her to suck up to women, disarming them with her huge doe eyes, so they feel more relaxed and trusting around her master? Well tough luck, Sammy boy, it won’t work on this one.
I see you, Holly, you manipulative bitch. Back the hell off.
But Holly, undeterred, moves in closer until her chin is fully resting on Lucy’s lap. While Sam waffles on about his hotshot surgery career and recent heroic placement operating on land mine victims in Laos, Lucy experimentally rubs one of Holly’s ears between fingers and thumb – and it’s oh-so-velvety, and makes her feel so calm, that once she’s started she can’t stop. After all, it’s been a while since Lucy last had physical contact with a warm-blooded creature, and Holly is, it’s fair to say, quite a bit less offensive than some of the men Lucy’s been on dates with in the past.
And although an evening spent fondling Holly is hardly going to make Lucy want to jump into bed with Sam, it turns out that her presence under the table is actually quite relaxing, and rather than ruining the date as Lucy had feared, actually makes it more enjoyable. After all, drinking wine and having free pet therapy is not actually a terrible way to spend an evening.
Don’t get too carried away, though. Lucy hasn’t suddenly become a dog-lover. She’s not about to rush down to Battersea to pick up some uncontrollable hairball and bring it home so it can chew all her furniture and wee all over her carpets. Nope, fuck that.
Afterwards, they message back and forth a few times, but Sam doesn’t ask for another date, and Lucy’s fine with that. She liked the dog better than her master anyway.