I GREW UP SCARED, OR SHOULD I SAY SH*T SCARED OF DOGS.
I’d cross the road when I saw someone coming towards me with their canine. When it wasn’t practical to cross the road, I’d almost stop breathing and clench my stomach as I walked past them. The words ‘Don’t feel nervous or they’ll smell your fear‘ were completely pointless and just made me even more nervous (and probably quite smelly as a result). Meanwhile, the words ‘Ah don’t be scared, s/he’s just being friendly’ were NO help whatsoever, when someone’s dog would jump up on me, making me want to smack the owner for not saying something more apt like ‘Oh sorry, you’re obviously scared so I shouldn’t just stand here looking at you thinking you’ll suddenly love all dogs, let me get him/her off you‘.
This reaction stayed with me well into adulthood, by which time the fear was also accompanied by downright amazement over why anybody of sane mind would willingly choose to have a defecating, urinating, barking, drooling, shedding, smelly, destructive nuisance in their house. But I probably shouldn’t talk about my friends’ kids like that. [Applause.]
Seriously though, I lost count of the number of coffee mornings and playgroups I took my little ones to, where my mum friends had dogs running around, making me want to go home, disinfect myself and burn every item of the doghair-infested clothing I’d returned home with (the total opposite of considering getting a dog for the first time).
I just thought everyone was barking mad (pun totally intended) to own these awful things.
Having to sit through endless conversations about their pets’ behaviour, mating mishaps, complaints or (just as dull in my eyes) doggy triumphs/boasts, I wanted to stick hot pins in my eyes.”What are they moaning about? It’s not like somebody forced them to get a walking flea magnet.” “What’s the crowing and fuss about? It’s just a flipping dog!” I just couldn’t understand it.
Then about three years ago, beyond all comprehension, I somehow I got it into my head that it would actually be lovely to have a four-legged furry friend. I started thinking about getting a dog for the first time.
You may well be wondering what triggered this (er, me too). Was it the emptying of an entire box of Kleenex watching Hachi? Busted.
Was it the friend who often posted photos of his kids loved up with their dog (and a pic of his old bearded collie that had stuck in my mind)? Could be…
Was it the Winter hikes we started doing with friends who’d bring their furry companion along, to my kids’ delight? No comment.
I couldn’t figure out what on earth had prompted this most spectacular change of heart, where I, staunch anticanine, started harbouring thoughts of getting that very animal!
And then it hit me… After the birth of my third child Cheeky K, I’d shut the factory down and sent the workers home, swearing that there would be no baby number four.
Could it be, now that several years had passed and my kids were no longer babies, that (despite having absolutely no intention to have any more kids) I nevertheless felt we needed another little one in the house, a baby the whole family could enjoy. A baby of the…DOG VARIETY. Eek!
I started mentioning my exciting idea to friends, seeking out advice and generally becoming a bit obsessed with the thought of getting a dog.
Everyone I spoke to about it thought I’d lost my mind.
I grew up with dogs and I loved them but I’d never have one now. It’s way too much hard work; you’d be mad to do it.
There’s no way you’d cope having a dog Prabs.
You’re definitely not cut out for life with a dog.
My friends’ vote of confidence was reassuring. N’t.
To be honest, the more I thought of the poo and the shedding etc, the more I thought they might be right.
So I talked myself out of it, wrote an article joking about why I probably wasn’t suited to dog life and moved on.
A year later, one of those friends got a dog for the first time. A few months ago, another one did the same. A few weeks ago, one of the others did too…
What’s more, it’s amazing how many people have told me they felt the same antidog sentiment for years, before also doing the same uturn…for the same reasons of broodiness. Must be a female thing then….
In our case, the simple fact is an apparently amazing opportunity has presented itself.
We were having a quick lunch the other week with friends, when one of them received a message from a friend in Majorca asking if she knew a family who’d like a Maltese Terrier who is chipped, vaccinated, neutered, trained, doesn’t shed and has her passport (still cracks she me up). The Maltese is the breed both my girls wanted (my son wanted a German Shepherd…and when he leaves home, he is welcome to get one) and is the colour I prefer. It seemed like fate was trying to tell me something.
About a week later, after a long chat with the current guardian who had found the dog on the streets and given her a home for a while, (last time I’ll chat from my mobile to another mobile in another country while I’m on the beach in Gozo, as I’m now dreading the phone bill), I decided I could spend another three years coming up with reasons not to get a dog.
Or just get a dog.
And yes the list of reasons not to do it is long. But the reasons why it’s a good idea are compelling.
My kids’ happiness is my number one priority. My eldest is once again going through troubles that I had thought were behind us and I’ve been battling intense stress this year not helped by turning the Big F and feeling the approaching ‘Big M”. They’ve wanted a dog for the longest time (how many mums say this?!) and I think I’m actually quite ready for a little companion during the day. (Ask me if I feel that way in a few weeks’ time when I’ve failed to get one blog post done or go to the gym because I’m held hostage by a dog and am in misery over the late evening dog walk obligation in my pyjamas…)
Seriously, despite the constraints it will place on our lives, the good that having a dog will nevertheless do all of us is immeasurable (and maybe it will teach my kids to stop leaving their crap all over the house if they don’t want it getting chewed up by doglet).
So yes, maybe we’re mad to be getting a dog for the first time.
Everyone who’s asked ‘Do you know what you’re letting yourselves in for?’ may find me on their doorstep sobbing one night.
Maybe I’ll be stuck with an overly defecating, urinating, barking, drooling, shedding and destructive creature in my house. But that’s enough about my husband, (Come on, you smiled).
One thing I do know is that she’d better do some canine etiquette classes beforehand she gets here mid May (no these pictures aren’t mine, they were sent by her current owner). Because this is no way for a lady to sit!
Right, I’m off to discuss names again because the current ‘Sarah’ is not doing it for us…