The manifestly admirable and incisive Louis Barfe labels this blog kindly on his links section as a discussion of "the finer things in life, like radio and dogs." So, creaking underneath the weight of expectation, it's time I mentioned the dogs again.
Here they are...
Dogs entertain you, provide great affection, frustrate you and keep you active and alert. Sometimes they can also make you laugh, really laugh.
Our four Bassets live in the garage in a closed-off luxury kennel, with a bed each, a hatch to an outdoor run, heating and even a radio. However, due to having a humourless neighbour who believes all dogs should have their tongues removed, we occasionally have a problem with noise.
Not having any concept of time (and you try fitting a wristwatch on to those paws) the dogs bark or play or sing whenever they feel like it. 3pm or 3am, makes no odds. And because neighbour sleeps in his back bedroom and we sleep in our front bedroom, he is often first to be roused by any mild grumbling coming from the kennel.
Even though the noise is always short and not excessive, he is always quick to jump from his pit and bang some hard object against the adjoining wall of our semi-detached properties to scare the crap out of us.
I swear he did this once and it took me ten seconds after waking from a deep sleep to realise that the house wasn't falling down.
Often it was one dog, outside, barking once while he or she did some emergency business, or as we often tried to point out to neighbour, protecting our properties from someone walking past outside. Yet sometimes we'd get to the kennel and they'd all be in bed, looking at us in a way which suggested we'd disturbed their sleep by switching on the light. How dare we.
So, with the neighbour threatening action involving Environmental Health (which he's done to every dog owner in the street over the years), we compromised. He didn't deserve compromise, but we're reasonable people who want a quiet home life. So we started to shut the hatch at night.
The dogs would just bark inside instead.
The neighbour could still hear them.
The walls were still banging.
The Natural Blonde wanted to kill him.
That said, he does go to bed at 9pm each night and I think a barking dog is fair game at that time.
He also has a delinquent daughter who has had drug and crime problems, and we have heard her going at him with a knife late at night. He has had police visits at late hours.
We didn't complain once. As reasonable people, we realised that it was a problem which didn't need neighbourly interference and it was beyond his personal control. We even sympathised, privately.
And at the time I was rising at 3.15am each day to drive to Stockport, so I was being heavily disturbed.
However, he seems to think dogs can understand English and don't have minds of their own.
Some dogs are trainable. Basset hounds are not.
So, when the occasional bark woke him from his precious dozing one evening when the hatch was shut, he banged on the wall again.
I was ready to run round his house and throttle him.
Instead, we unbelievably compromised again. There was something in the fact he could hear them before us, which probably wouldn't help our cause just in case EHOs did ring the bell.
We should have told him to move bedrooms. His delinquent daughter was now living in some puddle somewhere. The room was free.
Instead, we bought a baby monitor.
A baby monitor!
Now we can hear every moan, bark, scrap, whine, slurp of water and yawn when the dogs are in bed at night.
And here I come to the issue of dogs making you laugh.
Last night Ruby, below, started dreaming. She does this occasionally, but she is the only one of the four who dreams vocally.
So, through the baby monitor at 3am, we were both woken by this quiet, high-pitched "bup! bup! bup!" noise.
When dogs dream, it is funny. When they dream through a baby monitor, it's hysterical. We're both sat up in bed, bleary-eyed but wide awake, crying with laughter.
"Bup! Bup! Bup!"
What are they dreaming about?
Frank Skinner reckons dogs dream about chasing rabbits. My Bassets are useless hunters though; they can smell the bunnies in our village fields but it's only me who actually sees them. So Ruby can't be chasing a rabbit as she's never seen one.
Our belief is that she is actually chasing a string of sausages. Being Ruby the slowcoach who doesn't run unless she absolutely has to, the sausages are on the back of a horse and cart and she has made it to a light canter in her efforts to catch them.
And this is enough to make her go "Bup! Bup! Bup!" in the night.
It's enough to make us laugh sillily.
And it's enough to make us realise that our neighbour's complaints will never manage to sully the joy of owning these dogs.