It was December 2013.
My baby and I had survived the worst of The Weaning. I had also decided that I was going to hand in my resignation – I didn’t want to go back.
What I needed was a new challenge – and I had an idea…
I embarked on a serious campaign lasting a number of weeks to convince my husband that what I really needed, what WE really needed, was a dog.
On and on I went with all the positives this little puppy would bring with it. We argued about the pros and cons of having a large or small dog. I wanted small, my husband large.
I was happy enough to compromise on this point (error #1 – think small manageable poos) and found a lovely breeder of chocolate Labradors (error #2 – renowned for being a bit potty) near our house.
We knew that if we went to see the puppy we would probably end up wanting to take him home, and so it was. We thought he was gorgeous – well, all puppies are, aren’t they?
He was the feistiest one, and his name was Bandit (error #3 – they’d obviously already clocked him as the nutty one). We would find out later that, even though we ended up changing his name, he had been aptly christened from the start.
He came to live with us at the end of January 2014 (error #4 – house training is easier when you can keep the garden door open all day i.e. not in winter). It was a Sunday evening and my husband was leaving for a week’s work trip the next morning. My close friends arrived for supper the following Tuesday – my son fast asleep in bed while I was being wildly circled by an out-of-control and incontinent fluff ball. They will attest to the fact that I was a gibbering wreck.
Oh, I so quickly and regretfully found out that a puppy wasn’t really the sort of challenge I had anticipated.
I grew up with a dog, but of course the grown-ups did all the hard work, and I just enjoyed having a pet. I had no idea how hard it was going to be, and the ridiculous amount of poo and wee I would have to mop up at some ungodly hour of the morning, before I brought my 9-month-old down for breakfast.
It was the same throughout the day. We found out later that I had misread the instructions on his dry food bag and was giving him his daily amount for both meals – he was very round and very happy – so no wonder really.
What a nightmare those first few months were! He chewed not one, but TWO Annabel Karmel recipe books – the horror. Did he think those pictures of food were real? He munched one of my child’s shoes and actually ate part of my husband’s flip flop.
My own experiences are mild in comparison to some of the stories I’ve heard (yep, I’ve watched ‘Marley and Me’) but bloody hell did I find it difficult!
Looking after a young child was, it turns out, quite enough thank you. I had imagined myself spending glorious sunny days in the park encouraging my adorable, and adoring, dog to walk calmly by the pram. Or playing fetch while my toddler giggled at the funny dog running after the ball.
He couldn’t wait to get away! He nearly pulled the pram over once, and one very rainy morning his lead got caught on my welly and he bolted. My legs flew up into the air and I landed squarely on my arse. The little bugger stopped, looked back, and went on his merry way again.
But we persevered. Little by little he was house trained. He finished teething – yes they actually lose their milk teeth and get their grown up set – who knew?!
Around the 2.5-year mark (for my sins) he started to calm down – he no longer lunged playfully at complete strangers scaring the bejesus out of them.
He stopped knocking children over like pin balls when he went on one of his energy-expending runs. He’d bolt it around the house tail firmly tucked under, making himself look suspiciously like a hyena. He also stopped chewing his own back leg and eating his own poo. Yup, you read that correctly. Apparently, it’s a Labrador thing.
I remember going to a party at my sister-in-law’s house and meeting a couple who had decided to get a puppy the same week their first child was born. Wine sprayed out of my mouth and nose. Why would you do that to yourselves? Unsurprisingly the poor little puppy was sent back to the breeder a week later.
Yes, we made some errors but we’ve learnt from them. If and when we get another dog we will do well to remember them.
We absolutely adore our big pup, and he is very much a part of our family. I love our daily walks together when I get to see him go a little less berserk in the park.
He is super affectionate, incredibly gentle with children and great company. He is our grown-up Bandit. But ask me if I, knowing what I know now, would do it the same way again I would give a loud and resounding ‘NO’.
It’s great now yes, but I would have, at the very least, waited until my youngest was well out of nappies, maybe even in secondary school. If you happen to have that same itching feeling I would suggest taking up sewing instead!