Ella Davenport stood at a breakfast bar in Hampstead, Valentino the Pomeranian yapping at her Nike M2K Teknos. “Valentino had an awesome day today,” she wrote in the “Comments” section of one of her Doggy Report Cards. “His confidence around ducks has come on in leaps and bounds, and his breath is amazing since starting the BARF diet.” She continued in this vein, before Whatsapping Valentino’s owner Melissa 12 photos of her pet gambolling around Hampstead Heath.
Ella had added “dog walker” to her portfolio of careers two months ago. The twice-daily strolls tied in nicely with her yoga instructor course, fledgling YouTube channel, the gratitude app she was discussing with a techy friend and the vegan café she dreamt of opening in St John’s Wood. Her father, founder of Mass Acre Capital, praised his daughter’s entrepreneurial spirit. His only concern was that she “lacked focus”. Luckily, her mother enjoyed having Ella at home too much to make her commit to anything.
Ella had proved such a good dog walker that one canine had turned into three: Melissa, a soap star who attended Ella’s gym, had introduced her to a divorce lawyer with a cockapoo called Cher; she, in turn, had passed Ella’s name on to Adrian Snyde, “daddy” to a whippet pup named Puck. Ella hadn’t heard of Snyde, the writer, broadcaster and one-time household name, until her father explained over breakfast – with undisguised contempt – that Snyde “used to be big in the media”.
Having deposited Valentino at his Grade II-listed townhouse and Cher at her penthouse, Ella walked Puck home to Belsize Park. On arrival he bounded up the stairs and dived through a door on the landing. “Puck!” Ella shouted, racing after muddy paw prints – among the litany of canine no-nos Snyde had listed when she took the job, chief had been “NO DOGS UPSTAIRS”. The room appeared to be his study – a dim cave of books, newspapers and half-opened post. Gathering Puck up, she saw a stack of her Doggy Report Cards beside Snyde’s laptop. His Twitter page was open with his last tweet: a photo of yesterday’s Report Card captioned “Another gem from my millennial dog walker. Apparently Puck is ripe for some mindfulness #mydogwalkerwrites”. She saw that Snyde had been tweeting her Doggy Reports for days with pithy comments. Each had garnered hundreds of likes and retweets. Below her, a loo flushed. She hurried downstairs with Puck, just beating Snyde to the hall. “Greetings to the Mary Poppins of the canine world,” he said. “And what has my Puck been up to today?” With a watery smile Ella handed over his Report Card and left.
Pounding home, she churned over her next move. Confront Snyde for being a mean-spirited opportunist or hand in her chips and walk away? Either would confirm her father’s conviction that she was “a snowflake” who needed to grow a thicker skin. There was only one thing for it. She slid out her phone and let her thumbs do the work…
A month later, Snyde was lounging in his study, having sent his latest tweet, when the trill of his landline interrupted The Archers. “Have you seen what they’re saying online, darling? Puck’s a star…” It was Tara Gold, his agent, the very reason he’d got involved with all this Twitter nonsense to begin with. It was Tara who’d urged him to “up his social media profile”, although, irritatingly, she didn’t seem to have clocked his #mydogwalkerwrites tweets until now. “I’m talking a six-figure book deal, spin-off TV series, a brand of doggy treats… He’ll be the most famous dog in the land.” Mentally clearing his mortgage and contemplating a hair transplant for his remergence into the limelight, Snyde allowed himself a chuckle. “Well, I take it all back, darling. Humble pie. You were right. Social media was the way. Just didn’t expect the old comeback to happen quite so quickly. I mean, I knew Twitter had a wide reach…”
“Twitter?” said Tara. “Who’s talking about Twitter. Instagram’s where it’s at. Haven’t you seen the pictures of Ella with Puck? Not only is she young and gorgeous; look at the way she writes. She just speaks dog. That’s why I’m calling. Sweet Ella has asked if you’d write a brief foreword when the book comes out? It’s called How to Raise a Happy Puppy. She’s so grateful for all you and Puck have done for her.”