The handover didn’t quite go according to plan. After much soul searching, I had finally made the heartbreaking decision to give away our lovely dog Juno — a beautiful husky cross with blue eyes and a penchant for leaping 6 feet fences. She was going to someone who, I hoped, could give her a better (and more secure) home than I.
The couple who’d arrived to take her away seemed ecstatic. Of course they were. They were getting a house-trained dog — one that had cost me a fortune in vets’ bills and food — for nothing.
They were excitedly greeting Juno with their shiny new lead and squeaky toys when Dolly, my three-year-old daughter, appeared from nowhere and threw herself, sobbing, on the dog’s neck.
‘Why can’t we keep her, Mummy?’ she wailed, inhaling mouthfuls of snot and fur. ‘She wants to stay with us, I know she does.’
This did, indeed, seem to be the case. Juno was looking up at me so beseechingly I almost changed my mind. Almost. But as she and her new owners drove away that afternoon in June 2012, with Juno staring accusingly out of the back window, I felt nothing but relief. You see, I already had my eye on another puppy — this time a miniature dachshund, who, I was fairly confident, wouldn’t be constantly trying to scale the garden wall.
‘Come on, Dolly,’ I said, picking my hysterical daughter off the gravel. ‘I want to show you a photo of a puppy.’
I know people will be shocked by my lack of canine commitment. A dog is supposed to be for life, right? Not until it gets a bit annoying and starts shedding hair all over the sofa.
But I have an even worse confession to make; over the past four years I have fallen in love with four puppies and, on each occasion, driven miles with hundreds of pounds of cash in my pocket to buy them. Then, months later, I have turned my back on them and given them away. I admit this is strange, not least because no one is more welcoming and loving to a doe-eyed little puppy than me.
While they’re with me, they have a perfect life. I trawl pet shops choosing comfy baskets and colorful collars. I have debates with my children lasting days over what name we should give the new addition to the family.
I have paid for vaccinations and microchipping and laughed at my husband, Keith, when he has threatened divorce at the thought of yet another pooch.
‘Don’t be silly, darling,’ I have argued. ‘A dog is a man’s best friend. We can’t live without one.’
So where, today, are all these four-legged friends I promised a ‘for ever home’ to? I’m ashamed to say I have absolutely no idea. The minute they become too much trouble — which they always do — I fall out of love and start advertising them in the classifieds section of our local newspaper.
You’d think after doing this four times in four years — and spending over £1,000 ($1500) — I might have learned my lesson. But I’ve just gone and got another dog. This time she’s a seven-month-old whippet cross cocker spaniel whom Dolly has named Clover. And if she continues to leap onto the kitchen counters to steal food I’ll probably get rid of her, too.
No doubt, by admitting this, I’ll be inviting fierce criticism from dog lovers everywhere. But I would ask people not to judge me too harshly.
Maybe I’m like this because I was never allowed a puppy as a child. Maybe I just don’t know my own limitations when it comes to training an animal and cleaning up after it.
I admit there must be something mentally wrong with me. Why else would I keep buying dogs only to wave goodbye to them a year or so later?
In every other area of my life I’m a fairly grounded adult. But show me a cute ball of fluff and all common sense flies out of the window.
Of course, we all know the appeal of puppies over older dogs, but I think my condition is different. I’m a serial dogamist. In the early stages of the relationship I’m head over heels. I attend all the puppy classes. I don’t even begrudge picking up dog poo.
There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my new canine companion. But the moment things get complicated and they develop a problem, I don’t covet a dog-free existence like any other sane person might. Instead, I start wondering if there is another, more suitable dog out there.
I have loved, for a while at least, each and every one of my dogs. But there is no doubt that I have clearly failed on every occasion to wholly embrace a long-term relationship with them and all that this entails — tolerance, patience, time and effort.
What’s worse is that I dread to think of the kind of message all this has sent out to my long- suffering children. Just the other day, Dolly said to me: ‘If I’m naughty, Mummy, will you re-home me, too?’
It would almost be funny if it weren’t so terribly true.
First, I have to say I am a little surprised by you, Shona. You seem to have some knowledge and understanding of your “issues” with puppies, yet you don’t follow through on your own advice. It’s almost like you’re an adult without the “grown up responsibilities” of being an adult. Which I find very interesting. I am not sure if something is “mentally wrong with you,” because I am not a professional psychologist. However, I am pretty certain that one might be able to help you. My first suggestion might be, next time you want to buy a puppy, take that money and make an appointment to see a psychologist instead. The puppies will thank you!
Second, I find it interesting that you admit to not having “tolerance, patience, time” and even “effort.” As a past dog owner, I believe all these qualities helped ensure that the puppy I bought had a good upbringing and matured into a well trained dog. I remember training my little puppy, a golden retriever who was just 8 weeks old when we got him. We named him Ozzy. Ozzy was like a little child;he didn’t know behaviors or commands well at all in the beginning. But after several weeks, probably even a few months, Ozzy knew “stay”, “down”, “fetch”, and even “no”. How? Because I took the time, had the patience and had the tolerance to train him. I am sure you can relate, as a parent, having a 3 year old. Your daughter, Dolly, like your puppies, takes time to develop, mature, and as a parent, you are there to guide her, model behaviors for her, and support her as she grows up. You know? You say ‘no’ so she understands she can’t have everything she wants, because you want her to learn the value of money or “earning something.” Saying ‘no’, …..maybe that’s something you don’t hear as often as you should, especially when it comes to buying puppies. You should – just say ‘no’!
Third, I agree with you, you lack canine commitment. Buying a puppy is a commitment. A puppy not only has to be trained, but like a child, needs to be fed and given water on a daily basis, may even need a bath once in awhile, especially if it’s muddy outside or he/she has been digging in the yard, has to be let out, and even might need to be taken outside for a walk every now and then depending on his/her size. You see, Shona, puppies need to be cared for over time and not just “disposed” of because you feel the need to “exchange” them for something new. It’s not like having a dress or pair of shoes. It’s more like having a child, like your daughter. Your daughter, Shona, who by the way, is already expressing some concern for her own well being, when she asks if you will “re-home” her too. What child wouldn’t be picking up on your behaviors as an adult? These same behaviors which show Dolly you don’t have any commitment to another member of the family, such as her puppy or her dog. Instead of showing her your commitment, you have shown her what “re-homing” means. She now sees a distrust or unfaithfulness. How do you think that helps her understand relationships and commitments?
Finally, dogs are special like people. They are and should be treated as family members, because they are part of the family, and our children consider them part of the family too. Have you heard the expression – unconditional love? Dogs have the capacity to forgive, forget, and love us again even after tough times. But to think dogs don’t feel pain or suffer, that’s like saying Dolly doesn’t feel sorrow or hurt when you ‘rehome’ your puppy. Grow up, Shona. Do me a favor. The next time you want a puppy, go buy a new dress, pair of shoes, or new pair of blue jeans instead! #PuppiesLivesMatter
Written by Nancy Hayes
Follow on Twitter: @bodybynance
Sign up to get alerts from Joe!