Family Of Six (again): The one where we get a new dog

HollySince Christmas, there’s been a stealth war brewing in our household. We stayed in London and house-sat two beautiful-but-flatulent Boston Terriers. And ever since, the kids have been leading a concerted campaign to adopt a dog for our family.

Veteran parents will know how this goes: the kids make every promise under the sun that they’ll be active in walking, feeding and cleaning the dog. But once the honeymoon period’s over, their interest will inevitably wane and the parents will be the schmucks walking around in sub-zero temperatures waiting for Lassie to take a dump so we can go back indoors and thaw out.

But there was a twist in this tale: Lisa, in a nefarious bid to paint me as the bad guy, told the kids that she’d love to have a dog, but that Daddy was refusing to get one.

Once bitten…etc…

And to be fair, that’s true. We had a terrible experience with a Labrador a few years back which put us off having a pet for life. Tommy was a wayward pound dog that had never been properly trained couldn’t even be let off the lead for fear he’d disappear and never come back. So we rehomed him and vowed never to get another dog. But the truth is, Lisa was every bit against the idea of a dog for exactly the same reasons: we valued our autonomy and the kids were getting up a bit and we weren’t sure we wanted the burden of a pet.

Behind the scenes, Lisa was obsessively researching available dogs on Gumtree and in local pounds. The kids didn’t know this, but at night she’d be bombarding me with links full of cute puppies and big, searching brown eyes.

Good for the kids?

The thing is, watching the kids with the dogs in London, there was an argument that having a pet would be good for them. They absolutely doted on the terriers, and they spent much less time playing video games. I started coming around to the idea – which kind of freaked Lisa out, because she didn’t have my reluctance to hide behind.

This week, we started driving around some pounds to check out new dogs. We still hadn’t completely made up our minds about taking a dog, but it couldn’t hurt to look, right?

Vetting procedures

In one of the nearby pounds we came across a few adorable dogs, but one Labrador/Collie cross stood out. Lisa devised the “sit test” – if they wouldn’t sit down on command, then we couldn’t consider them. No more crazy dogs for us. Holly was one of the first we saw, and she sat on command. Better still, she had beautiful eyes and would press herself up against the bars of the cage to be petted.

All we knew about her was that she had been picked up by the dog warden a week earlier and that although the pound had tried to contact her owners, no-one had come to claim her. According to the rules, after seven days, it’s okay to rehome the dog.

But we didn’t want to just jump in blind. We came back with the two boys and let them walk her around the yard. She was fine on the lead, and didn’t even challenge the other dog that was padding around. Brilliant!

Long story short: After half a day driving around to pick up doggy stuff like beds and bowls and treats, we picked up our new family member and took her home. We surprised the boys by walking her up to pick them up from school – they were elated.

So far, so good

So far, Holly is fitting in beautifully – she walks well on the lead, she’s incredibly calm around the house. She’s even a dab hand at playing fetch – which our last mutt was terrible at. Of course, being such natural born pessimists, it’s far too early to declare our dog adoption a complete success. But the early indications are at least quite good. Surprisingly, there’s something nice about having Holly around the house. And there’s something quite therapeutic about stopping for a moment to pet and play with her.

And being tentative about our new dog, we’re also aware that her temperament may change once she feels settled in her new home. She’s already pretty vocal when her lead is produced just before a walk, and she’s reluctant to hand over balls and sticks that we’re playing fetch with, but we figure we can iron those out in time.

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