Not for nothing did Kipling admonish us to “…beware, of giving your heart to a dog to tear. Buy a pup and your money will buy, love unflinching that cannot lie”. I grew up with a lovely golden retriever called Bonnie who was our fluffy shadow through our teenage years. She bounced happily around us, never more pleased than when we were simply in the same room. I used to tell her all my angsty teenage woes, and we’d go for long walks on the beach (yet more teenage angst). When my mother would take to her bed after a particularly aggressive chemo session, Bonnie would bring a pile of toys up to her room and sit there contentedly gnawing on them next to the bed. When my mother died, our lives changed for the worse in so many ways. We downsized from our lovely house to a little flat. My father worked, I came to the UK to university and my sister was at school. There was nobody at home to keep our fluffball company and she was obviously unhappy. So we sent her to live on a farm: for once, not a euphemism. She went to live with my sister’s friend and her family. They had lost their beloved dog a few years beforehand and provided Bonnie with a lovely family home to retire to. I still miss her.
So a decade later I found myself awaiting the arrival of Bonnie mark two. Our already-enormous Maddie (named for Madeline Basset) bounced out of the breeder’s car and into our lives like a hurricane, much to the cat’s disgust. Here is where I suppose I’m supposed to say she bounced into our hearts but to be honest, due to the timing and through no fault of her own, it took a while for us to love her back. I had completely forgotten the enormous amount of work that goes into raising a puppy. And if I’m honest, getting one the week after we uprooted ourselves from London and moved to our smallholding (and being seven months pregnant to boot) was one of my stupider ideas. She took an age to house train, she nipped at our eldest son and (to this day) finds the sight of anything on his head an irresistible lure to the puppy thief within, she played whack-a-mole with the cats, she dug up the garden and jumped on everyone and all of it was our fault. We love her now, but we couldn’t have made a worse decision about when to get her. It’s ironic really, given that one of my huge bug bears is people with ill-mannered dogs that leap all over the place and can’t be called back. Karma has really enjoyed this one. But it is our own fault. We haven’t had the time she’s needed us to spend with her and as a result her training has suffered and we’re now having to start from scratch at seven months which I suspect is going to result in a much longer learning curve. I feel like we’ve let her down actually, but now that the newborn fog is lifting, when she trots happily into the sitting room and deposits some horrible dribble-infused pheasant teddy on my lap, I actually enjoy her and enthusiastically chuck it around for her to find rather than rolling my eyes. She wanders about the smallholding with us and other than uprooting and eating the odd raspberry cane or blackberry plant (grr), she’s lovely to enjoy the smallholding with. She is a lovely dog and she’ll make a brilliant family pet. We just need to teach her that hats are clothes, not food! My God, she’s stubborn though, so check back here in three months to find out wheher or not I’m sporting a rather fetching new fluffy pair of gloves…!