Photo: Lottie by Kathryn Berens
"It's me or a dog. Which is it going to be?"
Whole family in unison, "a dog!"
So this is how I found myself in my current situation of being "with puppy". After such a unanimous and resounding affirmation of my importance in the family compared with a faceless, nameless, breedless dog, I had to admit defeat.
I know you are probably thinking how having a dog can only be a positive experience for my children - learning to care for a pet, walking the dog, bonding with an animal - and why wouldn't I want that experience for my family? Two reasons: firstly I am allergic to anything that has fur (including, and I know this, fur coats) and secondly, I am done with babies and was just about at the point of getting some semblance of an adult life back.
My reasons for swerving the dog were airily dismissed by my family - apparently you can get hypoallergenic dogs and they (the children that is) would be doing all of the puppy "work" (immediately dismissed by me in my mind as at best, highly unlikely, and at worst, not at all). However, my family closed ranks against me and fought a sustained, well-thought-out, highly organised, at times military-like, campaign - "Operation Cockapoo". I did put up some resistance - in fact, I held out for a good 18 months, but the end result was inevitable and the war of attrition finally wore me down - I surrendered.
The time lapse between my surrender and the arrival of the puppy was 5 days - yes, 5 days. Why didn't I string it out a bit more? I'd held out so long, why the great rush now? Well, I fell in love...with Lottie, the chocolate cockapoo.
Lottie has been with us now for 5 days. Perhaps I am slightly delirious from lack of sleep but I have fallen for her very heavily indeed much to the delight of my family. That's quite fortunate really as I'm discovering that puppies are not a walk in the park (excuse the extremely weak pun, I plead exhaustion).
Initial observations are as follows:
- Puppies need almost as much paraphernalia as babies. I have probably become one of Amazon's top 100 best customers globally by buying an entire layette for my puppy - crates, beds, fleeces (to lie on, not wear I should add - I am not dressing my puppy up in case you were concerned), bowls, toys, grooming brushes and so the list goes on. This is one pampered pooch.
- The puppy world is full of Gina Ford-esque "advisers" as to the best way to train and care for your puppy. At least I am not expected to provide the puppy with black-out blinds...although a radio on in the background at night provides comfort apparently. I am not sure yet which particular radio station Lottie prefers - I'll keep you posted.
- Lottie doesn't sleep at night; she cries. Not well-known as an animal obsessive (I have yet to pick up Boris The Hamster even though he has lived with us for almost 2 years), I do find the sound of a puppy crying much more distressing than I ever thought I would. My natural instinct is to go to her and comfort her but the puppy gurus seem to advocate a version of "controlled crying" which any parent will know is one of the most trying experiences of first-time parenting.
- The children appear to have already lost interest in cleaning up after Lottie. This comes as no great surprise to me although I had secretly hoped that they might pay lip service to the promise they made me to help for slightly more than four days. They appear very unconcerned by this and happy to lie back on the sofa whilst I use up endless reams of kitchen roll and Dettol wipes bent double on the floor, scrubbing furiously, right in front of them.
- I have suddenly become extremely popular with all sorts of people - well, only as long as I have Lottie in my arms. I am constantly surprised by how much people love puppies - (I freely admit that B.L. (Before Lottie), I didn't get the whole puppy thing - too much hard work and too many antihistamines for me). I would like to think that Lottie's obvious charm is not the only factor in my soaring popularity over the last week but the co-incidence is rather overwhelmingly in her favour. Oh well, I'll just have to ride on her coat-tails and embrace all my new friends and invitations to dog-walks.
- I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the area of grass outside the back door - I think I almost know every blade. I am spending a lot of time staring at the grass and Lottie, willing her to do what she has to do so that I can go back inside. Of course, this particular stand-off ends in the same way every time: I stand outside with her for 10 minutes, I freeze, she freezes, she does nothing (why would you on wet/cold grass?), we go back in and then she immediately does "it" on the floor in front of me. I am assured by my dog friends that this is temporary.
- I have a new moniker to add to the many I already have - mother, taxi driver, chef, cleaner and now dog-owner. I am no closer to being known to many by my actual name and as for that independence I was hoping for now that all my children are at school....well, distant memory already.
As I write this, Lottie is sleeping on my foot. I keep stealing glances at her much like a proud new mother does with her new-born. OK, I am smitten. I admit it. But to be clear, I am not about to admit this to the rest of my family. I have got some pride and I did wage quite a battle to stop the arrival of my fourth (canine) child. Between you and me though, I'm glad I gave in...