He needs a haircut.’ Zam has been saying this for weeks. ‘And a bath.’ We look down. Both ends are looking bad. ‘Fine,’ I say. ‘You take him to a dog parlour.’ As this will be a new and possibly dangerous experience for everyone, Zam persuades me to toss for it.

So, I find myself standing outside a breezeblock industrial unit, the door of which looks very locked. There is a constant dripping noise overhead and I stand uncertainly for several moments, wondering whether to abandon the idea right now. I picked this parlour from a fairly extensive list, which popped up from an internet search. Beguiled by the ‘set among rolling countryside’ description, I agreed to wait three weeks for an appointment.

The woman who answered the phone had sounded brisk, (scary dogtraining type, I guessed), and the call had been brief. Details, such as price and what was included, had been minimal. ‘Um, he’s never been before,’ I managed to get in before the call ended. ‘Hiya. Oh God, I overslept. Oh God, what a day.’

The dog groomer appears behind me, hassled and clutching coffee. It’s not promising. We slide back the door to the parlour and, although I’m not sure what I was expecting, it wasn’t this. When I took my daughter, Olive, to have her ears pierced many years ago, I had considered it an exciting rite of passage that should be conducted as something of a ceremony. I therefore booked an appointment at Selfridges, which

I thought would have a powdery woman, vases of flowers, classical music and a sofa or two. The piercing parlour at Selfridges actually has pumping music and disco lights and the man who approached Olive with a staple gun had those holes in his ears you can put your fingers through. Again, I realise the need to adjust my expectations as I stare at the electric baths and strip lighting. ‘Are you staying or leaving?’ asks the doggroomer.

The session will take about an hour and I’m tempted to go, but I come to my senses. It’s no scented bower, but I’m starting to warm to this woman as she bustles around. And she doesn’t know Fletcher, made ever clearer when she looks him in the eye and declares he’s ‘gorgeous’.

As she showers him, shampoos him, towels him, blowdries him, clips him, trims him, colognes him, I warm to her entirely.

She’s funny, kind, patient and not at all gruff. And she works hard, my God she works hard. The dachshund wriggles and squirms and whines and shivers as though he is being operated on without an anaesthetic. As she works her way up towards the head end, he definitely tries to nip her. Every 10 minutes or so, we stand back to calm down.

Dreadlocks have been cut, the coat thinned and the only bits left to trim are the overgrown moustache, which trails daily in the dog food, and a mop of hair on his head, which means he can’t see. Zam and I have tried to cut this in the past, leaving him with an unfortunatelooking pineapple on his head.

‘You look like a Beatle,’ says my friend, who has been kindly joshing the humourless one throughout. Fletcher eyes her with malice. I start singing to him. Between brushes and clips, she answers her phone, which rings all the time. No wonder she sounded brisk when I made the appointment-this woman is a master of multitasking.

Eventually, we make do with a mild trim of the tricky areas, because, after nearly two hours of coercion and cajoling (she never looks at the clock), we’re all exhausted. ‘What’s the worst breed to do?’ I ask as I pay. She looks at Fletcher and says, ‘It’s not breeds, it’s types’.

Fletcher struts into the sunshine, sporting a complimentary blueandyellow cravat. ‘You’ve taken years off him,’ I marvel. She’s got a collie arriving in 15 minutes. I need to lie down.

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