Santa Paws

Where a relationship with my kids and husband requires some thought, Coco just needs three simple things; food, strokes and long walks.

It's hard to believe that diamonds are a woman's best friend once you become a dog owner. For the true gem by my side is in fact my one year old cockapoo who I have fallen completely in love with since she entered our lives last Christmas.

As soon as Coco joined the family, I have felt an instinctive fondness towards other dog lovers and even find myself slightly annoyed by those that dislike them. However, I used to be one of those people - turning my nose up at owners with scary-looking dogs and at times even crossing the road to avoid them. How wrong I was having discovered over the past year that dogs are in fact the most extraordinary life-enhancers. They're also brilliant companions, and I say that as someone who lives with four other people. Unlike my husband and three sons, Coco looks at me with utter devotion all the time and whilst they'll get harangued by me for leaving the toilet roll in a mess she can pull it into thousands of tiny pieces, give me a cock of her head and all will be forgiven.

What's more, with a house full of testosterone, it's nice to finally get my girl. It's not as if we sit around talking periods or boyfriends but it's good to have some female company - even though she's been brainwashed into watching and supporting Spurs!

As well as being loyal, devoted, sympathetic and playful, the fact Coco loves me unconditionally is very endearing. It doesn't matter what I have done, she will always forgive me and the fact she is unable to hold a grudge is a huge bonus - in fact experiencing her traits has probably made me a better person. Where a relationship with my kids and husband requires some thought, Coco just needs three simple things; food, strokes and long walks.

It goes without saying that you have to be serious about training your dog if you want a well-behaved one. It is exhausting in the early days but definitely worth it. In recognition of her good behaviour, we pretty much allow Coco to live the life of riley - she is not banned from sitting on the furniture and is allowed upstairs. It helps she doesn't shed hair but of course if she did, I'd no doubt blame the kids for not cleaning up after themselves.

To be honest, I can only imagine that dogs who aren't allowed upstairs would have a wild party there as soon as their owners go out before making their way back down again with a look of innocence as soon as they hear the key in the lock!

In human years, my dog is roughly seen as around seven years old-the same age as my youngest son Jake. Fortunately, only one of them can get away with licking my face, peeing when I walk through the front door and sporting a bright pink coat.

Coco has certainly given me a new leash of life and just like Bouncer in the John Lewis Christmas advert has captured the hearts of the nation, she has captured mine. However, take your time when choosing a dog as this should be done with care and not on a festive whim after watching a TV advert.

According to The Dog's Trust - the UK's largest dog welfare charity - a staggering 3,400 calls were made last year in the 30 days following Christmas from new owners wanting to give up their dog.

Sadly, this is an ongoing problem as every year over 1,000 unwanted dogs are handed in to the 20 Dogs Trust rehoming centres in the weeks following the festive puppy-buying rush. The Dogs Trust's iconic slogan 'a dog is for life, not just for Christmas', remains as relevant as ever, as the charity finds itself picking up the pieces when the appeal of a cute puppy wears thin.

Unfortunately, the realities that come with being a new dog-owner are often overlooked in the thrill of it all and we have seen how some people end up simply abandoning puppies as if they are just another one of their unwanted gifts left under the Christmas tree. Be thorough with your search as once you find the right dog, your new four-legged companion should hopefully turn out to be the best fur-ever friend you will need! Mine certainly has.

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