Ten days ago a small, furry bundle of exuberance entered our family life in the form of Lola, our miniature labradoodle.
Three months ago we had no plans on getting a dog. I happily went on walks with friends and their pooches but each time my middle son lobbied for a dog, I gave the usual responses of commitment, responsibility, thinking of all the things you couldn’t do when you’ve got a dog.
So, how did I get to the point of thinking about all the things you could do with a dog?
I think it was a drip feed process. The lobbying was fairly persistent from son number two and one particular line tugged at my heart strings: “So, does that mean I’ll have to be a grown man before I get my own dog?” Eek, the process of my doggy re-education begun.
After all, I grew up with a menagerie of animals including dogs, cats, rabbits, ponies, sheep, geese, ducks, hens and goats. Mine was a 70s childhood (The Good Life) where my mum let the ducks swim in our bath and we nursed poorly hens in our kitchen. So, I had this gnawing feeling I was denying my own children experiences I’d been given. Our own menagerie up to now consisted of a cat and three bantam hens.
Then on a winter’s weekend in January The Times (The Paper for Pets stamped across its cover) dedicated its Saturday newspaper supplement to DOGS…..The Top Dog Guide: What breed is best for you?
It had photos of loads of different breeds: Easiest to train; Most intelligent; Best for a quiet life; Most misunderstood; Best for the city; Most loving; Best with cats; Best for children. The list went on. There really was a dog for everyone. How could I refuse?
By the end of the weekend, we were seriously considering getting a dog. The Cockapoo seemed a good all-rounder. From Cockapoos to Maltipoos, these poodle crosses are currently very popular. A friend with a Cockapoo recommended a breeder in East Yorkshire so we gave Claire at Northcroft Doodles a call. Timing-wise there wasn’t a litter of Cockapoos due but her labrador Ruby was due to give birth in March. Woody, a charming miniature poodle, was the other half - creating labradoodle puppies.
We read up about labradoodles and they sounded wonderful family pets; excellent with kids; intelligent; eager to please; popular as therapy dogs and good for first-time owners.
I then started embarrassing the kids by stopping anyone with a dog I liked the look of and asking what breed it was. And as the boys buried their heads further into their hands, I found myself getting into long conversations about the joy of having a dog with their owners. I told the boys that nobody thought I was mad because everyone loved talking about their dogs - and they did!
Added to this, the world really does seem a dog-friendly place these days. Cafés have ‘We are Dog-Friendly' stickers on their doors; there are programmes on TV about people and their dogs - I loved the Channel 4 Walks with my Dog as much for the dogs as the country walks the celebrities were going on. There were podcasts too like Walking The Dog. And there were books.
I came across Labrador by Ben Fogle in our local phone box library - not my usual reading material but I found myself hooked on the stories of dogs through history. I also bought a copy of The Goodness of Dogs by India Knight, a sort of practical guide to choosing a dog mixed with an overall appreciation of dogs.
Fast forward to a week or so ago and we went to collect Lola.
She is a wonderful addition to our family, making us all laugh, smile, coo and yell - yes, puppies do things they are not meant to do….but who doesn’t love a puppy, whatever mischief they get up to?
Although not everyone in the house has fallen in love with her. Our cat, Daisy, is on alert and has given out a hiss and a bat when junior has got too OTT. There’s an uneasy truce between the two at present.
We can’t take Lola on walks yet until she’s had her vaccinations so we’ve spent a lot of time playing in the garden with her or carrying her on walks round the village. For her first outing into town, we took her to Roost, a lovely café in Malton’s Talbot Yard, which I knew would be dog-friendly as they have a goldendoodle I've always admired.
And I'm pleased to say she’s a puppy after my own heart. Like any true cafe afficionado she sat quietly engrossed in people-watching, just as I enjoy doing with my cappuccino and cake. It's not a bad life....