My heart has been stolen. I have had my emotions taken hostage, willingly offering them up to a tiny, bounding bundle of fur and pleading eyes. I have become one of those people; I have become a dog owner.
More specifically, owner of a puppy. I liken this process to becoming a first-time parent. I have never before shown much interest in Other People’s Dogs. I thought I had, but I now realise that my questions had been superficial, the answers soon forgotten and filed somewhere under the category of “Canine, Irrelevant” in my mental storage system. I had thoroughly failed to appreciate the extent of the impact of four feet trampling through your kitchen, your heart and your laundry pile.
Now I know. We have been through the ridiculous fiasco of first-night-home sleeplessness, two-hourly waking for toileting and angst over the dilemma of leaving to “cry it out”. We have attempted to puppy-proof every room in the house, determined that ours will be a perfect example of canine discipline and self-restraint, only to admit failure within 48 hours and concede to the purchase of a stairgate to confine the less-than perfectly behaved pooch to the one room in the house that doesn’t contain stray electrical cables at floor level, Italian leather furnishings or indeed any carpets or form of floor covering that is less robust than tile or concrete. And even tiles or concrete are not exempt from an attempt at “nibbling”. And when I say “nibbling”, I mean a valiant attempt at gouging out dirty great chunks.
We have chopped up cheese into fingernail sized bites, (yes, cheese! I Googled it; I wasn’t convinced at first but it really is an excellent bribing mechanism). We have scoured the garden boundaries for any signs of penetrable tiny gaps in the fences, hedges and gates. We have realised that slip-on shoes and a warm coat should be stored by the back door at all times, along with a supply of robust toys, poo-bags and a torch lest we lose the chocolate brown pup in the darkness of midnight. For we find ourselves standing out in our garden at midnight these days. And at 5am. Even in the rain.
I’ll be honest and admit that if I had realised what was involved beforehand, I may well not have made the decision to enter the dog-owning sphere of humanity. I realise that I should have realised. I researched, of course I did. All the reliable websites warned that a decision to raise a puppy should not be taken lightly. All cautioned about the levels of responsibility, the elements of hard work. I read, I understood, but I failed to truly absorb.
Yet I don’t for one minute regret the decision. As our youngest child becomes more self-sufficient and independent, Carter has necessitated a return of routine and structure that our mornings and evenings could easily lack on high days and holidays. Half term mornings no longer consist of lounging in bed with books and Netflix until way past mid-morning. Sundays are not now a haven of late awakenings, followed by a restless late night of tossing and turning before Monday morning trying to recover the regularity of weekdays. Every day is bookended by the basic physical needs of another living thing. Which sounds like a bind, unless you are a parent fast approaching the benefit of hindsight, with a recently-acquired nostalgia for the days of being needed in a most practical sense.
And dogs certainly make you feel needed! And loved! And by loved, I mean idolised, worshipped and revered in an entirely disproportionate way. A dog welcomes you home as if you had traversed continents, been absent for months and arrived carrying their favourite delicacy. Even if you have only been gone for a couple of minutes. A dog betrays their barely-contained excitement with a less-than-subtle wiggle of their entire rear half as their tail whips frantically, waiting for your permission to move from the commanded “sit” position. A dog gazes at you in adulation, widening their eyes and twitching their ears, more attentive to your words and tone than even your most awestruck past love.
I have been frustrated, exhausted, nipped, tripped, floored, adored, but certainly at no point bored. This dog is already a member of the family, and I, for one, could not be more delighted about it.