On entry to the M11 motorway services at Birchanger, a young man approached me and stopped me in my tracks.

“Cats or dogs?”

I was puzzled for a moment, but then saw that he was obviously working for an animal charity. Nevertheless, I gave a true answer.

“Neither, thanks.”

The man looked offended, as though I had committed some terrible crime. As it happens I am allergic to cats (sneeze, and skin comes out in big lumps if they touch me), and prefer not to be anywhere near dogs after being bitten badly by one as a ten-year-old. Dogs usually growl at me anyway as soon as they see me, and to be perfectly honest I do not trust any dog and always give them a wide berth.

The man stepped backwards, rattled his bucket, and accosted somebody else.

Unfortunately it seems I am in the minority when it comes to pets. I am supposed to fawn over everybody’s dog that I see on my walks around the village, and people get offended if I walk out into the road to get away from a dog on a long lead that has made its way towards me. I was shouted at once to grab hold of somebody’s dog that was not on a lead. The owner was a way behind, and the dog had ran towards me barking and then ran out into the road. I was terrified of the dog and no way was I going to grab hold of it. I carried on walking, the dog eventually ran back to its owner, but the owner did not speak to me for months. As far as I’m concerned, it was the owner’s fault for not putting the dog on a lead in the first place.

Many cats in the village use our garden as a toilet, probably because we don’t have a cat of our own to chase them off. I have planted lots of lavender bushes and Sam has put netting over some of the dirt in the flowerbeds, and happily these 2 things seem to have done the trick.

So, yes, we are not pet people, but we have the right not to be pet people, just as others have the right to own pets. I abhor people who are cruel to animals. My only problem is just that I don’t want to be around other people’s pets, and I’d really like dog owners especially to appreciate this.

How about you? Am I the only person in the world who says ‘neither’ when it comes to cats or dogs? Sometimes it feels as if I am!