Jack Averty: Paws for thought before you get a dog
Like thousands of other people up and down the country, I’ve always wanted a dog.
I adore my two cats – one of them, of course, named after esteemed Pokemon trainer Misty – but it’s just not the same.
Cats aren’t exactly mad keen on attention, nor are they the most active. When I come home to my cats they briefly rub themselves up against my leg before demanding food. Once fed, I don’t see them again until feeding time rolls around the following day.
However, as I’ve had the pleasure of discovering this week, dogs launch themselves at you and won’t leave you alone until you’ve walked them from Dudley to Wolverhampton and back again. Even then they only leave you alone for five minutes before demanding more attention.
Looking after a family friend’s Jack Russell over the last week has certainly been an eye-opener.
I’d always pictured that you would just rock up to a rescue shelter, pick a cute-looking dog, buy a few toys and a bed and, once a vet has stopped them reproducing, you’re good to go.
I knew about them needing a good walk twice a day – but what I didn’t anticipate is the constant demand for round-the-clock attention; think newborn baby or clingy girlfriend.
Your everyday routine is thrown into chaos. There’s no more waking up when you want and crawling out of bed, it’s now wake up on time and head straight downstairs to let the dog out or else spend your morning on your hands and knees cleaning up their mess.
Normally when you’re ready to leave for work you can just leave, but with a dog you need to spend a good 10 minutes reasoning with them as to where you’re going, why you’re going and when you’ll be back.
You spend the day worrying whether they’ll be OK before the fun starts all over again when you get home.
I don’t know about anyone else but I’d settled into a fairly good evening routine of eating, watching TV and dozing.
Unfortunately, with a dog none of that is happening.
You try watching TV with a dog licking your face and impeding your view, or eating with a dog sat on your foot staring up at you with his puppy eyes every time you go to take a mouthful.
Then comes bed time.
In my previous life, when I started to get tired, I’d just slip into bed and snooze the night away.
But no, with a dog, once you’re ready for bed you have to take them for a walk.
Sounds simple enough on paper until you realise taking them for a walk wakes you up, and when you get back you’re not tired, so you decide to stay up and put the dog to bed instead.
Cue an hour of a crying, scratching dog as they can still hear that you’re up and they’re heartbroken that you’re choosing to spend your time not with them.
So apart from having to completely change the way I live my life, looking after a dog was everything I expected.
Of course, there’s the things I haven’t mentioned like the cleaning up the wee in the bedroom when they make a break for it upstairs, the relentless mess everywhere when they’re out for walks, the all-round terrible hygiene and the shredded furniture.
But has this experience changed my mind about dogs? Absolutely not.
See for all their faults, they’re still the most lovable animal in the world. Nothing beats seeing the look in their eye when you walk through the front door, nor that unmistakeable feeling of love and warmth when they curl up in between your legs for cuddles.
However, what this experience has taught me is that getting a dog is really not something you can rush into.
As the clock ticks down to Christmas, parents and partners will begin to receive the constant badgering from children about getting a dog – and all too often they relent without thinking about how much hard work it takes to look after one. There’s a reason so many dogs end up abandoned and given away; there’s a reason the slogan ‘a dog is for life not just for Christmas’ was created.
They are majestic animals and are undoubtedly man’s best friend – just make sure you’re ready to be their best friend as well.