Why I want a dog but can’t have a dog.
I want a dog!
Recently, I’ve found it increasingly difficult resist the urge to get a dog. I don’t think watching the new BBC TV series ‘Choose the right puppy for you’ has helped! Every week, we sit on the sofa ‘ahhing’ and ‘cooing’ over the endless footage of adorable dogs and puppies. It always leaves me feeling a bit envious as yet another family chooses a puppy to make their life complete.
We all love the idea of dogs in our family and our girls are desperate for one, but every time the subject comes up, we debate it, we consider it, and we shelve it again.
Last year, I finally decided to leave my career as a pharmacist. When I told the kids about it, Emily didn’t miss a beat, ‘If you’ve left work, can we have a puppy?’
So, here I am again, weighing up the pros and cons of dog ownership.
I love dogs!
I’m not a fan of cats. I think that’s why they always come and jump on my knee and pester me when I visit people who have them. I’m actually a bit scared of them. Perhaps it’s because I had a bad cat experience when I was little: a cat lashed out and scratched me when I tried to stroke it.
Emily is allergic to cats anyway. Her reaction to them has gotten worse over time. The most recent reaction didn’t even involve much contact with a cat but ended with a trip to the Emergency Department when her eyes puffed up and she started to complain that her throat felt tight! No cats for us then…What a shame!
Now, before I get lots of complaints from cat lovers, let me say for the record: I am sure there are many lovely cats out there that bring pleasure to their owners. Me? I just don’t think cats put enough effort into the relationship. It’s all a bit one-sided. You love them, feed them, give them shelter, stroke them, play with them, buy them little bells and scratching posts but somehow it never seems good enough. They look at you as if to say, ‘Really? Is that the best you can do?’*
I need a pet that ‘needs me’. Cats always give me the impression that they can get along just fine without their owners: as if they are only tolerating them because they give them a bowl of cat food every now and again.
Dogs are so different to cats. I love dogs because they need me and love me and they give something back! I know you aren’t supposed to give to receive but it’s still nice to be appreciated, isn’t it?
Dogs are sad to see you go and delighted when you return. They like attention. They’re affectionate, loyal and loving. They’re ‘proper’ companions. That’s what I want. I want a pet I can love and they love me back. In my imagination, my dog will be well trained and loving, will spin around in circles when I arrive home and should I ever fall into a deep pit or be kidnapped by fugitives, my dog will run miles and miles to fetch help.
*There is an exception to my ‘not a fan of cats’ stance. I was very fond of ‘Tizzie’, my friends Alex and Amanda’s cat who died recently. She was more like a soft, pudgy, furry cushion that just sat on my knee whilst I stroked her…Very therapeutic.
We grew up with dogs.
We had two golden Cocker Spaniels called Bess and Beauty when we were growing up. I can still remember when dad bought them home: Bess first, and Beauty a little while after.
Bess was a temperamental pedigree from a long line of show dogs. Beauty was named ironically, being the runt of a bulk-standard spaniel litter with ears that were way too long. I’m sure they wouldn’t even let her through the front door at Crufts. She couldn’t even sit down properly when she was a puppy. Her little back legs stuck out in front of her. Beauty may not have been a ‘stunner’, but she had the most beautiful temperament, (unlike grumpy show dog Bess). She was patient, loving, and never, ever snapped or growled at anyone: no matter how rough and tumble we were when we were kids.
I loved those dogs. Sadly, they died while I was away at university and the house never seemed the same without them. For months after they passed away, we were closing doors to stop them ‘getting out,’ or going to refill their water bowl before realizing there was no longer a water bowl to fill.
I think if you have grown up with dogs, it’s very difficult to get them out of your system. You always feel like there is something ‘missing.’
Dogs are good for your health and wellbeing.
There’s tonnes of scientific evidence that having a dog can improve your mental health. They offer companionship to people on their own and stroking a dog has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress.
Specially trained dogs are used to help children with autism and there is evidence that dogs can detect whether people have serious illnesses and even certain cancers.
Dogs can also help you to keep fit. We would certainly exercise more if we had a dog to walk.
The kids are desperate for a dog.
Emily has been saving her pocket money and has started a ‘dog’ fund. She’s also started walking the neighbour’s dog and even asked them if they could ‘draw up a dog walking schedule.’ The only thing is, she isn’t old enough to walk them by herself so she picks the most inopportune moments to ask me to take her!
We’ve tried the whole ‘dog substitute’ idea by getting two guinea pigs, but it just isn’t the same.
There are dogs everywhere.
Everybody seems to be getting a dog or puppy at the moment. Every time we turn up at the school gate, there’s yet another puppy tied up outside. It’s like being an alcoholic who has been locked in a brewery: seeing all of these lovely pups every day and trying not to succumb to the temptation.
My neighbours bought a puppy a few months ago and another neighbor brought one home this week. There’s no escape. Every time another person gets one I go through the same ‘Doggy Yes, Doggy No?’ argument in my head. It’s becoming harder and harder to resist the urge. I even went as far as asking for the details of a breeder from one of the dog owners (don’t tell Richard and the kids. I didn’t actually get in contact).
I’ve done my research.
I may not have a dog, but I’ve certainly researched it extensively, (This admission will not come as a surprise to those who know me well).
- I’ve read books about dog breeds and training dogs.
- I’ve watched programmes about dogs, dog behavior and dog training. Whether it’s Paul O’Grady showing us the wonderful dogs at Battersea Dogs Home on ‘For the love of Dogs’ or Kate Humble helping families to choose their perfect puppy.
- I’ve trawled through website after website in the quest for information on the perfect breed. I’ve searched for reputable dog breeders and browsed the ‘dogs needing a home’ pages of rescue centres. I’ve filled out online forms to discover which breeds would be most suited to joining our family.
- I’ve asked my friends who have dogs about their experiences. I keep hoping they will say ‘It’s awful! I wish I’d never got a dog.’ But they don’t! They keep telling me how wonderful it is and how it’s enhanced their lives and how the kids love having a dog.
I’ve already got a list of dog breeds and names!
You may know by now that I’m a listaholic (see here), so it should come as no surprise that I have a ‘Dog list.’ In fact, I’ve had a shortlist of breeds in my head for years. I’ve tweaked it and honed it over time. There have been many ‘movers and shakers’ in terms of the breeds in my top five. A few designer breeds have popped into the top five in recent years…Yep, I’ve had a hypothetical dog list on the go for ages!
I rang my sister a while back (when I was still working) and we had a chat about dogs. My sister is fabulous and knows me very, very, well as you will see from the conversation we had…Or how I remember our conversation, (it may have been slightly embellished but is based on a true story)
(This is for you, Emma at Islandliving365, because I love, love, love your dialogue posts!)
Me: I really want a dog!
Sister: Me too!
Me: I miss having a dog and the kids are breaking down my ‘it’s not practical to have a dog,’ defenses.
Sister: I know what you mean.
Me: I even rang dad and told him he needed to get a dog and gave him a list of our requirements. Of course, we’d look after it when the kids are on holiday.
Sister: Ha! What did he say to that?
Me: To be honest, he didn’t seem overly keen.
Me: I keep trying to talk myself out of it because I’m working and we haven’t got family nearby to look after him when we are away and I don’t want ‘Rizzoli’ to go in kennels and get kennel cough and die, or anything.
Me: Ermmm, yes.
Sister: You’ve chosen the name of your hypothetical dog?
Me: [sheepishly] Maybe.
Sister: Sorry, go on.
Me: I’ve erm, done some research.
Sister: I’m sure you have…
Me: [quietly] I’ve made a list.
Sister: No surprise there then!
Me: I’m serious.
Sister: Oh, I know you are.
Me: [ignoring the sarcasm]. It’s a hypothetical dog list…Of my favourite breeds of dog and favourite dog names.
Sister: *Snorts* (in a very ladylike way, obviously. She may read this).
Me: Not helping!
Me: Are you still there?
Sister: [Lets out a breath]…Me and Andy have got a hypothetical dog list too.
Me: Wait! You have?!! Why didn’t you tell me?
Me: Because why?! I thought I was going through the ‘need a dog’ thing on my own.
Sister: We really want a dog too but we haven’t got a garden and…
Me: [interrupting] What breeds have you got on your list?
Sister: I’m not telling you.
Me: What do you mean, you’re not telling me?!
Sister: Because you’ll copy me!
Me: Copy you?! What? Are we six or something?!
Sister: No, but…
Me: Are you serious?
Me: Okay, Okay. How’s about I tell you my list first and then you tell me yours?
Me: Shieshk! Okay, [excitedly] First on my list is a Cocker Spaniel. Not a solid colour because they can suffer from ‘rage’ and Bess was golden and grumpy and the multi-coloured ones have better natures. I actually wanted a Golden Retriever but I am being very sensible and ruling out big dogs.
Sister: Right. Next?
Me: A ‘Cavapoo’, which is a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Poodle. Cavapoos have the lovely temperament of a Cavalier and don’t shed too much because of the ‘poo’ part.
Sister: [chuckling] Next?
Me: Third on my list is a Shih-Tzu because they are cute and small and fluffy and come in lots of different colours.
Sister: They are cute.
Me: Fourth is the Miniature Schnauzer because they have great temperaments and they are one of the only breeds the Asthma Society recommends as they don’t usually cause allergies.
Me: Well, Emily wants a Pug. But, I dunno. They can have breathing difficulties and someone told me that if you stroke their head too hard their eyes might pop out and you know how squeamish I am about eyes!
Sister: [Worriedly] Their eyes can’t pop out can they?
Me: Well. I am just not prepared to take the risk. Anyway, I’ve told you my list, so tell me yours!
Sister: Is that all of them then? I thought you said a while back that you liked miniature dachshunds?
Me: Richard wants a miniature dachshund because he likes the idea of having a ‘comedy dog.’ I’m not keen. They have terrible back problems and have trouble with stairs and deep snow…Maybe if we lived in a bungalow…I did toy with the idea of a Bichon Frise Shih-tzu cross because the frizzy part means they won’t shed lots of dog hair, apparently.
Sister: Bichon Frise and Shih-Tzu cross?
Me: Yeah. I think the breeders call them Shih-chons or Shu-chons or something…I’d been saying ‘Shit-Freeze’ for weeks!
Sister: [choking on tea] Jaaannnnne!
Me: Or maybe I could have a cross between a Bull dog and a Shih-tzu! Then I’d have a Bull…
Sister: [interrupting] Okay, okay, I’ll tell you my list…
I’ll have to stop there so nobody copies my sister’s hypothetical dog list, but you get the idea.
I could go on about the reasons why I want a dog, but this post is already way longer than I anticipated!
So, after working myself up into a frenzy again about having a dog, I need to look at the cold hard facts (Boo!). These are the reasons why I haven’t put a deposit down on any of the absolutely gorgeous puppies I have viewed online for years…
We don’t have family living nearby.
Although I’m working from home at the moment, we don’t have anyone to leave the dog with when we go away on holiday. As I said, I’d rather not leave them in a kennel. Richard’s mum is in Derbyshire and my mum and dad are in the north-east. My sister is in Manchester and is busy enough with two small children.
I know we can take them on holiday in the caravan and some cottages and hotels are dog friendly, but it’s still trickier than not having a dog.
We also visit friends and family some weekends and it isn’t always possible to take a dog.
Dogs are expensive.
Just as the TV program showed, even small dogs can cost over £2,000 per year when you include insurance, food, toys, bedding, kennel fees etc. That’s a lot of money when I have just left my job.
Dogs tie you down.
You can’t leave dogs for hours on end. You can’t just go out for the day and leave the dog. Your life revolves around making sure you are back to let them out and feed them. You can’t be spontaneous and suddenly decide to go away for the weekend. We like having the freedom to come and go as we please and if we want to visit friends one weekend, we can just pack and go.
A dog is for life.
Some dogs can live for 14-15 years. Getting a dog isn’t a decision you can take lightly or rush into: you are in it for the long-haul. The kids will leave home at some point during that time (or at least I hope they do!). What about all of those Sandals All Inclusive Holidays me and Richard had planned to go on together? Just kidding, I don’t want to think about the kids leaving yet.
Doggy yes? Doggy no?
So there you have it: I want a dog but I can’t have a dog. Or can I?
Over to you.
Can you help with our doggy dilemma? Tell me about your experiences. Give me some advice, for or against! As always, I would love to hear from you.
…And if you are a cat lover, convince me that I have got it all wrong!
Don’t forget to check out Emma’s hilarious dialogues over at IslandLiving365, Try this: BiBs 2016 *warning may contain nudity and Dirty Dancing*
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