Crazy Animal Lover
Isn’t it every child's dream to have dog? As a child I was obsessed with dinosaurs. In fact Triops, or "living fossils", were my first live pets. Before that I had a pet stone that was painted as a seal and kept in my pocket for luck. I wasn't allowed to have a dog.
And so the obsession begins...
My next pets were brought in from the garden - A family of baby snails which I snuck into the house with my sister using a homemade pulley system through the bedroom window. In came ants, spiders and other creepy crawlies. Then one day they all got loose in my bedroom and I developed a severe insect phobia which still haunts me to this day.
I graduated to owning a variety of small animals, this time with the permission of my mother, and acquired from actual pet shops. I owned overfed goldfish which kept getting tangled up in their own ropey poos, smelly rodents which went promptly back to the pet shop, and birds. I had a budgie named Timmy who was extremely tame and knew how to say his name. Then we got a girlfriend for him and my curiosity turning things into a breeding project that got out of control.
As a child I could always be found in the adult pet section of the library pouring through books and absorbing information on all of the animals I hadn't yet had the pleasure of owning - cats and dogs of course, but also ferrets, rabbits, lions tigers and bears, oh my!
In the Dog House
We finally got our first dog Purdy, who I loved to bits. It was a time before the internet though, and my mother was clueless. So we ended up with a puppy that piddled all over the house, couldn't be let off the lead in public, and humped my favourite soft toy. Sadly my mother made us give him away.
When I was older I was allowed to have another dog, Purdy II. It was made clear that Purdy the second would be my full responsibility. Unfortunately this was not a story that turned out well either. I still didn't know what I was doing, I hadn’t yet discovered the internet,, and being a hormonal teenager, I was shamefully irresponsible.
On one occasion I was meant to be walking Purdy II, but I was multitasking, as teenagers do. I had my dog's extender lead in one hand and my mobile phone in the other. Then all of a sudden I was only holding my mobile phone. My dog had taken off with the extender lead crashing behind him along the concrete path, poor things must have thought it was being chased by something very scary indeed. I genuinely thought I was never going to see my dog again. Thankfully I found him waiting for me on my doorstep. I'd say he looked very small and pale indeed - if he wasn't already a pure white toy poodle.
Purdy II had barely reached 6 months before my mother decided to get married, and I found myself having to search for pet friendly landlords so that I could leave home. The dog ended up going back to the breeder. I was very upset with myself, and had nightmares for years about losing him in the house somewhere.
Plagued with guilt
I vowed that when I was an adult I would be a dog owner again, because I was a genuine animal lover after all, and having a dog had always been my dream. I vowed to myself that I would do everything properly the next time round, and be a GREAT dog owner.
So when Juniper came into my life I became a research fanatic. Prior to choosing a puppy I spent months researching dog breeds to make sure I got the right dog for my lifestyle. I spent hours watching training videos on Youtube. The first thing I did when I brought Juniper home was enrol her onto a course of puppy socialisation classes. I was absolutely terrified of being a bad dog owner.
Preach what you practice
While attending these classes with my dog I realised that what I desperately wanted to do was share all my newfound knowledge with other people, so that all new puppy owners could "get it right".
I will always wonder with dread what happened to the two dogs I owned as a child and teenager. But at least now the work I am doing can make a positive impact to other people's experiences of owning a puppy.
I still make common mistakes with my own dog of course, and I have had to problem solve and go back to basics many times over, but that is what having pets is all about. Being a dog owner is a wonderful challenge and a beautiful privilege.
You can follow me, my dog and my cat on Instagram to find out what we get up to:
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