Hips And Snips: Living With an Italian And a Lab

03/08/2011 05:33 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I have to admit that over the past few days I've spent a ridiculous amount of time worrying about Bailey's hips. (He's my chocolate lab.) He's going to get the shock of his life when he realizes his new home in New York is a fourth floor walk up. As we all know, labradors' back legs are always a bit dodgy so I'm just hoping that his will stand up to the stairs.

Earlier in the day I'd been chatting to some fellow dog walkers here in London about this very subject and, as always, it wasn't long before Monty's owner dominated the conversation. She was waxing lyrical about labradors and their hips and how it was all a myth that they were weak before moving on to her favorite topic, Bailey's nuts. Honestly, she never misses an opportunity to reiterate her belief that Bailey should be castrated like Monty. It kind of gets on my nerves to be honest. In any case, as usual, she was going on and on about how wonderful Monty was and that castration was the only way forward for Bailey.

Quite frankly, she's a bit of a know-it-all, constantly telling everyone else what to do with their dogs. As she was banging on, I tuned out and turned to check on Bailey. As usual he was being vigorously humped by the nutless Monty. Now Monty was really giving it the business and he's not the most svelte of labradors. To be totally honest, from certain angles he looks positively obese.

In fact, since our vet made the shocking discovery that Bailey is at his "limit" weight-wise, I've been making an effort to hang out with Monty more than usual to boost Bailey's self esteem. The downside of course is that I have to listen to Monty's owner bleating on.

Anyway, poor old Bailey was standing there taking it until his two back legs very slowly but surely slid into the sideways splits. If he'd been working the beam at the Olympics he'd have won a gold. His rear end simply gave up the ghost and literally buckled under Monty's weight. It really was annoying and the whole incident couldn't have been good for Bailey's hips.

Typical of Monty's owner she made no reference to any of this but simply marched off across the fields in her rain boots blowing her dog whistle with real gusto. Monty of course completely ignored the whistle as he was far too focused on steadying himself ready for a remount and a second crack at poor old Bailey.

The only positive thing about all of this was that I realized Bailey's hips must be in pretty good shape. If they could survive Monty's weight then four floors of stairs shouldn't be a problem. Of course, if he had his way, he'd be reenacting Rear Window by having me lower him down to Bleeker Street in a wicker basket, but he's simply too big for that.

Anyway, I was lying in bed that evening trying to figure out why I had started obsessing about Bailey's hips in the first place and I think it all began because my own hips were aching on Saturday morning after a ridiculous turn of events at my gym on Friday.

There are two Kenyan athletes who regularly run on the treadmills there. They are amazing. Beautifully built like two gazelles. They probably break world records on a weekly basis. Anyway on Friday they happened to be running on the two treadmills alongside mine. Now, I should come clean at this point and admit that I am abnormally competitive (ask my long suffering husband).

My dad was a professional soccer player in his youth and the kind of dad who never let you win. When we were small kids playing in the back yard, my mum was always banging on the window and yelling, "If you don't stop that, you're coming inside now. " But my dad just ignored her.

In any case, it's a genetic flaw and it all came to a head on Friday. I was trotting along on my treadmill at a nice leisurely pace listening to a bit of Stevie Wonder on my iPod when the Kenyans arrived.

As they kept upping their speed I did the same. Now that I have regained my sanity I realize how ridiculous I was being but I just couldn't stop. It's a type of madness that takes over.

Anyway, ten minutes in, my legs were a mere blur they were moving so fast. I gave up looking at my heart monitor. I already knew I was in the cardiac arrest zone and that if I didn't get off that treadmill and fast I would likely be carried out of the gym on a gurney.

I tried to look casual as I brought my speed back down to a civilized trot before ending the run and heading off to do a few stretches and get hooked up to an oxygen tank. My legs practically buckled from under me, much like Baileys when he was almost crushed alive by Monty. Still, not bad for an old girl I thought smugly. That'll show them. I've still got what it takes.

An hour later after I'd crawled to the women's changing room, showered, drunk two lattes and read the newspaper, I noticed the Kenyans were still running. Clearly what in my mind had been a silent competition between us (which I'd come out of looking pretty damn good quite frankly) had in fact been no more than a warm up to the Kenyans. It was a bit disappointing but, as I say, by now I'd regained my sanity and realized what an idiot I'd been.

Anyway, this is why on Saturday my hips were aching like mad and what got me thinking about Bailey's walk-up apartment situation.

If I'm really honest, I was also thinking about my husband's recent article complaining about menopause and the effect it is having on him. Truth be told I'm actually in perimenopause which is something I didn't even know existed until recently. Much to my husband's horror, perimenopause can go on for years apparently.

Well, he'd obviously given it some thought too because the following day he made a huge gesture to prove his support by offering to have the snip despite having stated publicly that he would never do it. I have to say that at this point it was rather tempting. Between Monty's owner going on and on about castration, my sore hips and my husband cracking wise about my hormonal hell, I could quite happily have said, 'Yes. I think you should do it." But I didn't. I took the moral high ground.

Monty's owner will have a fit of course but truth be told, I love the two males in my life just as they are. Intact.