A year ago this week, hurricane Lola blew into town and turned our lives upside down. Ever since, things haven’t quite been the same around here, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Before you get too confused, I should explain that hurricane Lola wasn’t an errant tropical storm, but rather a four pound ball of fur that we’d chose to invite into our lives. My girlfriend and I had talked about getting a dog for years, and now that I spend most of my time working from home, it seemed the right time to finally take the plunge, and what a plunge it proved to be.
While we fell in love with her from the first moment we saw her, raising a puppy has been far from the easy road that we might have imagined it to be. I’d grown up around dogs, but as a kid I got to do all the fun bits of dog ownership without realising quite how much work was involved behind the scenes, especially if you want to raise a happy, healthy, well-adjusted and well-behaved dog – and who would want anything else?
Cute as this picture is, I still wonder where she got the pacifier from in the first place, and I really hope there wasn’t a small child crying somewhere just out of the shot!
Before inviting a dog into our lives, I’d had images of myself sitting at my desk, the dog curled up in her bed under the desk as I happily tapped away at my computer, allowing me to occasionally reach down for a quick scratch behind the ears as I re-read what I’d just written. The first night was enough to shatter that cosy little picture as Lola managed to drag the power cable for my laptop from the kitchen table and maul so badly that by the time I found it in the morning all it would do was beep plaintively (who knew a power cable could even do that?) meaning I had to immediately go out and buy a new one if I was to be able to use my computer that day. What followed was weeks of being jumped on whenever I sat down to work, being pestered to get up to let her into the back garden to wee every hour on the hour, and sometimes in between, too, and generally being drowned with constant demands for attention and play.
Under this sort of pressure, something had to give, and I’m afraid to say it was my writing. This was only right as after all, we’d been the ones to decide to take her in so we couldn’t change our minds, and the effort which we have put into Lola has been so worth it. The more time we spent training her, the calmer she became, gradually changing from a hurricane to a tropical storm and then, most recently, to little more than a gentle breeze, although, to continue the weather analogy, there are still the occasional gale-force gusts from time to time.
Now, just over a year after bringing her home, things are starting to turn out the way I’d originally hoped, and as I type this post, Lola is curled up beside me on the sofa, fast asleep after her early morning walk. Yes, from time to time she does wake up and plonk her nose on my keyboard, just to see what I’m doing, and I have to delete the resulting stream of gobbledygook, but for the most part she’s just happy just to be lying by my side. There’s still a lot of work left to do, but it’s most definitely a start.
This brings me to the point I want to make. There are certain decisions you make in life that you can’t go back on, or more accurately, that you shouldn’t go back on once you have made them, and choosing to bring a dog into your live is one of them. Too many people decide to get a puppy on the spur of the moment, having given little thought to how much it is going to change their lives, or how much work will be involved, especially in the first six months, to make sure that they end up with a happy, healthy and well-adjusted adult dog. The result is that dog rescue centres are crammed full to bursting with animals that have been abandoned or given up because people haven’t taken the time to bring up the cute little puppy they brought home properly, resulting in it growing into an unmanageable adolescent or adult.
The fault here does not lie with the dog, but rather with the owners, although it is easy to see how it happens. My girlfriend and I spent many years considering all aspects of bringing a dog into our lives, researching which breed to get and discussing who would do what, but still we greatly under-estimated the amount of work which would be actually involved, and how difficult the first year would be. The kitchen furniture has been sacrificed to teething, the laminate floor will never be the same again, and simply rolling out of bed in the morning and making a cup of tea before sitting down to read for a few quiet minutes to start the day quickly became a pipe-dream. The hard work, and it was hard work, was constant, with little room for much else, including writing and relationships. Yet, all the disruption and time and effort which we have put in, is now being repaid ten-fold as Lola is growing into the type of dog who is a dream to own, providing companionship and bringing joy into our lives.
So, if you are thinking about getting a dog, here’s my advice: think long and hard about it, and then think some more. Are you really willing to put pretty much your entire life on hold for the first year to give your new arrival all the attention and training that they’ll need to grow into a happy and healthy adult? If you’re not or if you have any doubts (and you have to be completely honest with yourself about this), then don’t do it. It won’t be fair on you, or on your dog. If you are, then go for it. Your life will never be the same again, but as long as you are properly prepared, that is not necessarily a bad thing!
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.