For the last two years, since the Redster has been running her let’s-get-a-dog campaign, I’ve maintained that a dog is basically another child – and therefore, No Way.
It is, after all, ludicrous to get a high-maintenance animal with a life span of about 15 years for a child who in four years’ time probably won’t be living at home anymore. A child, moreover, who goes to school most of the day, leaving Mum to do said high maintenance.
Also, if I were to get a dog, it would be a proper dog – at least Labrador-sized, and definitely not any kind of pedigree, preferably sourced from a local rescue centre like the cat was.
So here she is. A fully certified Papillon puppy, from an actual Papillon breeder (with a family tree going back roughly to the time of the French Revolution), smaller than your average cat, taking up roughly 85% of my waking hours.
Where did it all go so horribly wrong?
Well, the Redster is 14, and shy, and sometimes that’s a struggle. Maybe something fluffy and faithful and unconditionally loving is no bad thing when you’re that age – therapeutic even. (For me, suddenly being responsible for 500 sheep every day all day in the south of France at the age of 19 was incredibly therapeutic, but that’s another story.)* Dogs are a commitment, just like babies, but then you do babies and you do commitment because of love. And I very much want the Redster to have as much love as possible.
So she made all sorts of manifesto promises about getting up early and taking the dog to the park every day and picking up its poo etc etc, which I ignored, but the idea started to niggle at me, and it felt like a God thing. Over Easter she had a very unhappy patch and ramped up the dog campaign, while my resistance crumbled.
I started making it conditional. One condition was that it had to fit inside my bike basket, because I’m not having any dog cramping my style and making me walk everywhere.
The Redster did hours of feverish Internet research and discovered the perfect breed – a Papillon. Related to Spaniels, which I have a soft spot for anyway; fits into a bike basket; can be easily carried on the Tube – basically a cat except you can take it with you wherever you go.
We found a Papillon breeder’s details online and they sent us This. Photo.
Which ended all my arguments, really.
So here we are, nine days into being dog owners. We got Lunar (not my idea – I’d have called her Dogmatix or Kimchi, but no one listens to me) last Tuesday. This Tuesday was the first morning I woke up after an actual decent night’s sleep. On the first night I woke up at 4am, convinced she was choking on one of the toys we bought her, and took hours to get back to sleep. Another two nights I woke up at 5am worrying about whether or not she’d soiled her sleeping area and if so why and what was I doing wrong? Then she took to escaping from the pen we’d bought her (after soiling her sleeping area anyway) at about 4am for several nights in a row.
By this time I was actually shaking with stress and sleep deprivation. During the day, to crack the house training, I was following the advice to keep her on a lead at all times, even inside. To no avail. I’d go outside with her for hours and she’d muck about happily, then come in and poop on the carpet. It didn’t make any sense. And it felt like I was tethered to her, not the other way around, and that my life was basically over. Even making a cup of tea was problematic. On Sunday I got to church late, walked up the aisle to a free seat near the front, and only realised after I sat down that my dress was about one-third unzipped at the back.
Then we borrowed a ‘crate’ from a dog-owning neighbour. It’s a cage, not a crate, but crate sounds nicer (N.B. proper dog people use ‘crate’ as a verb). She clearly saw it not as a crate, but a cage, and started crying at midnight and wouldn’t stop. I ended up dragging a mattress down to the front room to keep her company, i.e. keep her quiet.
The next day the Redster could see I was on the verge of losing my mind or, worse, giving back the puppy – so she offered to sleep in the front room instead. The puppy was quiet all that night, and has been ever since. She spends the last hour of the night in bed with the Redster, so they’re both happy. Then gradually the accidents have began to get fewer, and less unpredictable, and I’ve learnt the signs and the timing of when she needs to go outdoors.
So she’s here to stay. She is the sweetest little person – timid, obliging, licky, excitable. She loves everyone in the family, including the cat (an unrequited passion so far), except Mr Suburbanite who she can’t stand and barks at very fiercely (hilarious) – presumably he’ll grow on her. And both girls adore her. It’s too early to say if Lunar is the best thing to happen to the Redster, but I suspect we won’t regret getting a dog.
*I’ll write it for you if you like, but you’ll have to find me an agent and a publisher first…