I grew up with dogs. Shetland Sheepdogs were our breed of choice. They were lively, gentle, loyal and incredibly hairy (a bit like me — apart from the gentle bit).
Whisky was my favourite. I teased him relentlessly, but he was my best friend. His arthritic decline was awful to watch. I slept on the kitchen floor next to him the night before we took him to the vet for the last time. Yup, still brings a lump to my throat.
That was nearly 30 years ago. I’ve been waiting for the right time to be a dog owner again ever since.
Since leaving permanent employment, I’ve been working from home, in perfect conditions for looking after a dog.
Apart from the presence of Hope, the tortoiseshell cat. She survived 18 years, never lost her fear of plastic bags or children, and left her mortal coil last September.
The kids immediately wanted another cat. I suggested we spend a little time without a pet to reflect. In the end the decision was really down to me. We all knew I’d be the one taking care of our new family member, plus, as I have to keep reminding everyone, I’m the boss.
We had quite particular criteria for a dog. We wanted a non-shedding breed, partly to mitigate against allergic reactions, and partly as a backlash against Hope, who was the hairiest of creatures.
I wanted a fur-baby who would sit on my lap, who needed no more than an hour of exercise a day and who was intelligent enough to train well. After all this was going to be my last chance at discipline — having had only modest success with my two little humans.
The Kennel Club put me in touch with Jackie, whose Miniature Poodles are show winners and had just had a litter. So one rainy January day, I drove two hours up the A1 and met little Coco. She was a seven week old, bouncing bundle of fluff and I instantly fell in love.
Fast forward to today and Coco has been with us for nearly a month.
What have I learned so far?
It’s nothing like having a baby
To start with, she sleeps through the night. She whined and cried for 20 minutes on her first night away from her mum, a little less the second and third nights, and after that, she just accepted this as her new home.
She also naps during the day — again, nothing like my experience of babies.
Yes, there are lots of toilet accidents, but unlike a baby, she hasn’t weed all over me, or smeared poo all up her back. I just bag it and bin it, and silently curse myself for not noticing she was about to do it.
She walks, she runs, she jumps, she plays — so advanced for a three month old, don’t you think?
My 13 week old babies laid inanimately on a rug. Coco follows me everywhere, she is my shadow. She particularly enjoys photobombing: (you’ll have to follow this link to see an example).
And I don’t know about yours, but my kids never chewed on the skirting board.
It’s just like having a baby
She’s unpredictable. Sometimes she will do exactly as I ask — sitting, fetching, lying down on command. Most of the time she does whatever the hell she wants.
This includes jumping up with muddy paws at unsuspecting strangers; running after children; stopping suddenly in the middle of a walk and refusing to budge.
When she is asleep, I find myself creeping around so as not to wake her. As I type this at the kitchen table with her asleep next to me, I am freezing my nuts off. But if I move to turn on the heating she’ll wake up.
I also must not cough, sneeze and I pray that the postman won’t come.
There is so much stuff everywhere. I nearly had a meltdown a few days ago. I’d had a really busy few days with work, there was a mountain of washing and every room was a sea of dog toys and chews and footprints.
Don’t worry, I didn’t blame the dog. Turned out it was just my hormones anyway and I felt much better the following day, despite the continuing chaos.
She is cuddly, smells surprisingly lovely and gives unconditional love — just like a baby.
Having a dog is such a massive commitment and during a stressful day, it’s easy to be concerned that I’ve taken on too much. But then the evening comes, Coco signs contentedly and settles down on my lap and I know we’ve made the right decision and that she has a loving home to grow up in.
Too smug? Sorry, I’m a dog bore.