…it's the one question you really dread, but inevitably one member of the family will always ask. The first time, we were just off on holiday and I managed to persuade my son and daughter that a puppy would not want us to be away from home as soon as it arrived and the idea faded. As Christmas approached however, the subject was raised again. I tried the 'ask your father' (praying he would be brave enough to say NO), but alas, it was 'well, your mother will be the one to look after it, so it's up to her'. So there it is, do I really want a dog? Of course, I'd like a dog but how will it affect my life?
There are the usual questions such as, will I have time to walk it, what happens when we go away, simple things like that. I never dreamed it would be like than having another baby!
Once we'd gone through the task of choosing a size, sex and breed of dog, contacting The Kennel Club for breeders' names and telephone numbers, we then called the breeder. "Yes, we have some due in three weeks time. We'd like to meet the new family to hear how you will look after 'puppy' then – if we like you – you can come along when they're 4 weeks old and choose the one you want. They are ready for collection from 6 to 8 weeks of age."
The 'interview' with the breeder was quite frightening and the puppies all looked so adorable, how on earth could we choose? Well, at four weeks the personalities are forming and we go for the quiet one who hasn't chewed a hole in my best cardi or attacking the carpet and isn't barking at nothing, or chasing it's funny little tail. All is agreed and we're given a list of equipment required, injections required, special diet and tips on training. What have I done?
My life changed beyond belief. The children were great the first three weeks, rushing back from school, persuading the puppy out into the garden to perform and entertaining it while I cooked and cleaned up the house, having had no time to spare during the day when they were at school. But the novelty wore off as its teeth got sharper and it was raining and why should they go out and get wet? My husband would ask what I had done during the day and my reply would be, 'looked after the puppy'. I could tell by his expression he was not amused. He could tell by mine, neither was I!
I was tied to the house for three months. Unable to leave the puppy for more than an hour at a time. Unable to take him with me because the car would need replacing once it had been car sick several times and emptied the contents of it's bowels EVERY journey we took together. The 'potty training' was a nightmare. Why hasn't anyone come up with nappies for dogs? He went off his recommended food and only wanted what we were eating (big mistake), and generally became more demanding than the children.
Dogs are an expense. Not only their 'cages' to sleep in (this incidentally helps house training as they do not like to soil their territory and makes them feel secure at night), their weekly food bills, their puppy training sessions to help stop them jumping all over friends and strangers alike and to make sure they stay within calling distance on walks, extra presents from them to children and children to them on birthdays and at Christmas but there is among the 'extras' dog insurance which is a MUST., not just because the dog may be ill and there will be vets bills (which may seem steep but if you think about it, they do get instant care and attention with a follow up session to ensure full recovery), but if the dog runs into the road and causes a major pile up, you will be responsible and finally you can't forget the expense of the electronic fencing to ensure the latter does not happen. We had our garden physically fenced before our dog arrived and before we realized that it could do Houdini style tricks through the smallest of gaps and so a few weeks later electronic fencing was also installed.
Although now that the dog is older and can be left for longer periods of time, there is still the feeling of guilt if the walk is curtailed to under an hour and if it has to spend hours in the house on its own i.e. when we are out visiting friends who dislike dogs as it must be remembered that many people and children distrust or are frightened of dogs.
Having said that, don't get me wrong. They are a real joy. They are loyal and they are always happy to see you when you've been away from them, even if it's only 5 minutes. As a family, we probably spend more time at the weekends together, walking the dog which gives us an opportunity to really talk to each other. Dog walking during the week has also introduced me to many other local people I would never otherwise have had the opportunity to speak with. The children have learned to respect that animals too have feelings and understand they have to take responsibility for their dog. All in all the dog has become, dare I say, a human in our eyes, a real member of the family and we would be lost without him.
Of course, I could have taken the easy route and just said no, but then the questions would have been 'can we have a snake, rat, or even a pet spider?' I know I made the right decision, but I really should have taken advice from friends who had dogs, just so that I could have been better prepared.
Pet Health Care
Make up an imaginary animal with Switcherzoo
Everything you will need to buy from Pet Planet
And if you really don't want to get a dog you could always buy Talking Max 2 the virtual pet!