“Will you come and help me dogsit this weekend?” I ask my young friend Zara.
“You’re dogsitting?” She says. “You?”
“Er, yes?” I answer.
“Who asked you to dogsit?” She says, suspiciously.
“My friend Andy,” I say.
“Why did he ask you, of all people, to dogsit?” She says.
“Erm, maybe because I’m totally a dog-person and he’s going away on holiday and I am a good friend and he needed someone – preferably a dog-person – to look after his dog?”
“Jacinta,” Zara says scornfully. “You are definitely NOT a dog-person!”
I hate to admit it, but Zara is right. I am not a dog-person and I’m not a cat-person either. I dislike the way dogs smell, and I dislike the way people who own cats smell – kind of fishy? Still, Andy’s dog is gorgeous – big – big, huge, enormous, ginormous – big like the size of a dining-room table, or maybe a wolf – or maybe a horse – and fluffy and gorgeous and wonderful.
“Andy’s dog is beautiful,” I tell her.
“Really?” She says. “Okay, I’ll come and help you dogsit then. We can take him to Hasenheide and meet sexy guys.”
“Everyone talks to you when you have a beautiful dog on a lead,” I say.
“People love dogs,” she agrees.
“Especially a dog like Andy’s,” I say. “He’s from Alaska. Really big. Looks like a wolf. Or a husky. But he isn’t a husky. Andy told me. He’s from Alaska. I’ve forgotten what kind of dog he is. I guess I’m not really that much of a dog-person? But anyway big and gorgeous and fat and hungry and wonderful like a small wolf.”
Icy silence in the Thai restaurant. Like an icy, disapproving silence. Zara just stares at me, all icy and disapproving.
“What?” I say.
“Nothing,” she says.
“What’s wrong?” I say.
“I don’t know,” Zara says slowly. “You just reveal your age sometimes, that’s all. Sometimes I forget that you’re not a millennial….”
“I AM THE UPPER BRACKET OF MILLENIAL!” I roar across the table.
“You’re not a millennial, Jacinta.” Zara sniffs delicately. “We millennials love small dogs, not big ones.”
It’s true. I’ve noticed it myself. If you go out for a walk with a tiny little dog – the kind of tiny dog that could be mistaken, if you didn’t look carefully, for a rabbit or a cat or maybe even a rat or a hamster – the kind of dog you could fit in a handbag – a Paris Hilton-type dog – the whole of Berlin stops to gaze and swoon and coo and gush. Walk into a typical Berlin start-up with a little pug and you will basically get physically assaulted by 74 23-year-olds with funny fringes, wrestling you to the ground so they can put your doggie on their laps and say “OH HE IS SO CUTE LET ME ADOPT HIM”. It doesn’t happen with kids, let me tell you that. Berliners definitely hate babies less than they did ten, 15 years ago – but nobody wants to adopt one.
The truth is, I am not a dog person or a cat person. I always thought I was allergic to cats because if I spend too long around them, I get itchy – but I did an allergy test last summer and I am not allergic to cats at all. It must just be my natural antipathy? And I am not a dog-person, either, if I am honest – though I think I’ll make a good dogsitter – if you can look after a toddler, you can look after a puppy right? How hard can it be? Toddlers are essentially puppies on two legs instead of four. But I know I’m not a dog-person, because the truth is, when I see a cute little doggie in the U-Bahn, I don’t feel like cooing away. I look at the dog and I feel my heels itch. There’s a deep-seated innate desire in me to kick cute little doggies in the face. Don’t judge me! I would never act on it. But my heels do itch a bit.
Berlin is a city full of hipsters and millennials – and it’s important to remember that not every hipster is a millennial and not every millennial is a hipster! But every Berlin-based hipster, millenial and hipster-millennial LOVES tiny dogs. It’s true. Berlin loses its coolness, its hardness, its cynicism once a tiny dog gets on the U-Bahn. “Ohhhhh der ist ja süss” says the trendy Medien-Praktikantin with dyed grey hair, the performance poet, the Video-Künstler. Can I stroke your dog, can I pet your dog, can I touch your dog. My theory is the following: the Linken like big dogs, the hipsters like tiny dogs – and nazis like Rottweilers. It used to be that in order to get a stranger in Berlin to talk to you, you had to walk about with your bag open. The city is changing – Old Skool Berliners, by which I mean white men called Sven or Üwe, are, of course, as unfriendly as ever. But all you need to do to meet a hipster is get a dog. My parents used to say if you want to get ahead, get a hat. The Berlin slogan should be: if you want to meet a hipster, get a dog. I wish they loved kids as much as they loved dogs. It would make it a bit easier to find a free babysitter in this cold, hard city…..