When I was a child, there were very few years that went by without our owning a dog. Our furry companions were a massive part of our life, and that of our wider family and friends, and as a result I have always included “dog lover” as one of my defining characteristics. It’s not for everyone, of course, but it didn’t occur to me that the man I married, the love of my life, might be one of those people until we had the following conversation some years back.
Me: So, the Older Child is crazy about dogs. CRAZY. Do you think there’s any chance of getting one?
Mr RLC: No! I’m allergic, remember?
[True. I did know this. It’s fair enough, too – you wouldn’t want to bring something into your home that’s going to make you sneeze in perpetuity. But still, I had hope…]
Me: OK, of course, but if we found a dog that didn’t shed, and didn’t make you sneeze, or that you grew an immunity to [sounds mad, but I think his has happened before, in my defence] – what about then?
Mr RLC: Immunity?! And no. I don’t think so. I really don’t know why you would bring a smelly, messy creature into your house, chewing everything and eating everything – it could be aggressive, and the weeing and pooing on the floor…. [Not his exact words, but you get the drift.]
Me: Oh. I see.
[Reader, I left it there – although I did nearly point out that we’d already birthed children who have been known to do all of these things.]
Shortly after this, my lovely sister and her husband got a whippet puppy. Mr RLC was initially wary, but after a series of successful visits in which both he and the dog proved themselves agreeable to each other – even when she stole one of his novelty monster slippers and tore about the garden with it (a classic moment that will live in family memory forever).
Meanwhile, Older Child’s love of dogs grew and grew. Blowing out his candles every birthday, he wished for a dog. Every time we spent time with dogs at family and friends’ houses, he got so emotional when we had to leave. He decided, with the finality of a child, that he was going to be a vet when he grew up, and put the CBBC show Pets Factor on a loop every school holiday.
We talked idly about filling the pet void – fish, a hamster, maybe even a guinea pig – but never did anything about it. And then quite suddenly, a conversation on the Closed Topic of Dogs was initiated by Mr RLC.
Mr RLC: I’ve been thinking about pets. Did you once say that there are some dogs that don’t shed? Because I don’t think I would have a reaction to them. It’s always been the fur flying around that’s affected me in the past.
Me [unable to believe my ears]: errr, yes, actually – there are a few. Lots of the poodle crosses apparently don’t shed, and if we got one that wasn’t too big…
…and a plan was hatched from here. We would surprise our boy with a voucher on Christmas Day, entitling him to a family dog that we would all choose together. It went down very well indeed, and I’m not sure we can top it this year!
I told the story of our lockdown pup earlier in the year – and you can read it here – but six months on, how is it all going for the Man Who Never Wanted a Dog? Exclusive interview follows.
Q: What did you expect before owning a dog?
A: I definitely thought it would be smellier. It’s really not that bad. I thought it would be a much bigger adjustment for us all, but it’s actually been fine. I did also think that the kids would play with him more…
Q: What has surprised you about the reality of it?
A: I wasn’t expecting how intelligent he’d be. He’s trained so quickly, and picks up on new cues and words every day. That’s been really surprising.
Q: What would you change about dog ownership?
A: Probably the neediness – he’s very clingy – but nothing else. I wouldn’t really change a thing
Q: What do you like most about dog ownership?
A: The love he’s brought with him. He is so affectionate. He’s a lovely little chap. Acutally, I can’t imagine life without him now.
And that, Reader, is an example of why you should never give up on your dreams. Just try separating them at nap time.