House sharing… are dogs easier than people?


This is a piece I wrote a couple of years ago for The Herald after a news story in which a girl was found to have sprayed glass cleaner in her housemates’ food. I was reminded of it during the week because we’re thinking of getting a second dog to keep Vimes company – dogs, poo, pee and walkies included, are so much easier than people!

Did you hear the one about the girl who sprayed glass cleaner in her housemates’ food?

Thanks to CCTV, we learned this week that Hayley King, from South Carolina, is set to be charged with malicious tampering with human food, unlike thousands of dodgy housemates before her whose evil actions went unrecorded. Hayley King just seems to have been born at the wrong time.

If you ever spent a few years living in dodgy rented houses, you’ll recognise this experience.

You’ll have locked your door at night against the guy who’s rarely seen in daylight but whose presence is always felt in the house due to the odour of BO and the cans of Dutch Gold in the overflowing recycling bin. Not because you are afraid of him, but because you heard about the time he peed in the wardrobe of your room.

You’ll have returned, starving, from work, to find your shelf on the fridge completely empty and the guy who is working hard on that PhD sitting amid a mound of dirty plates playing Xbox.

And you’ll have done your best to ignore the acrobatic girlfriend of – normally – silent Bob who sleeps directly above you, after you’ve found out he isn’t silent all the time, and particularly in the wee hours of the night. I’ve had friends who lived with drug dealers, with convicted criminals, and with sociopaths diagnosed only by the unfortunates who ended up living with them.

I’ve had a fair few characters myself – an exchange student who ate nothing but Nutella pancakes, a fastidiously clean shift worker who used to come home and hoover the apartment during his breaks, a beautiful Eastern European girl whose enthusiasm for my cooking was only matched by her desire to hop into my bed (flattering, but momentously awkward, not just for me but for my husband, too).

And let’s not forget the travelling sales rep who got a dog when her boyfriend broke up with her, then proceeded to leave the poor creature in the kitchen for up to four days a week without assigning responsibility for its toilet to anyone.

Despite their oddities, not one of them ever tried to poison my food… that I know of. But there’s the rub: for the majority of my house-sharing career, the pre-moving-in ‘interview’ was the only screening process we had. These days, you can check their social media profiles for evidence of murderous intent. Is it better? Maybe. But you lose the element of surprise, and that keeps life interesting.

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