Crazy Animal Lover

 
 Image courtesy of Philip Angell

Image courtesy of Philip Angell

It's 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.

I graduated to owning a variety of small animals this time with the permission of my mother ad acquired from actual pet shops. I had overfed goldfish getting tangle up in their own rope-like 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. It has been suggested that perhaps I should have been a Scientist.

As a child I could always be found in the adult pet section of the library pouring through books and absorbing info 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, and being a hormonal teenager, I was shamefully irresponsible.

On one occasion when I was meant to be walking Purdy II, 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 chasing behind him. It  bounced along on the concrete like a terrifying predator and 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.

 

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 research obsessed. 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:

@opulentmutts
@juniperandfig
@figthecornishrexcat


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Zara M.
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