Katie's blog: Lockdown Doggy
We were one of thousands of households in the UK, seduced into bringing a puppy into our family during the Covid-19 lockdown; perhaps ‘coerced’ would be a more accurate description. My daughter began her campaign for a dog 3 years prior, at the age of 6. At that point, we didn’t need to discuss it, it was a straight-forward ‘No’. My husband and I had full-time demanding jobs and two young children. There was no way we could make it work. However, we began to soften during lockdown… with more regular working from home, it suddenly seemed feasible. However, in my head I knew it was still going to be a big commitment and another responsibility to add to the mix; continue to resist, we did.
It all changed, when we started watching ‘The Dog House’ series, following the traumatic lives of homeless dogs taken in by Wood Green Dog’s Home, and the stories of hopeful dog parents coming on the show to find a suitable dog to take home. That was it, it was no longer about logic, my heart took over and we decided we would take the plunge.
Cue: Teddy, the miniature schnauzer, enters our lives in June 2021; this adorable bundle of salt and pepper fluff who, within the first 10 minutes of being home, had done a wee and a poo, on the kitchen rug. The mayhem and joy of having a dog-baby had begun…
Our first year with Teddy was not dissimilar to our experience of having a human baby: sleepless nights, behaviour training, experiencing a cocktail of emotions often simultaneously including: delight, amusement, comfort, guilt, exasperation, adoration and worry. Similar phrases were uttered: ‘What have we done?!’; ‘I didn’t think it would be this hard’; How long will this phase last?’, ‘ah he is so adorable when he’s asleep’.
Even the traumatic experience of leaving our eldest child at nursery with her screaming at the gate as I left, was similar to trying to leave Teddy with doggy day care when I went into the office. We found one that would pick him up on a special doggy bus, but he was not happy about it and bit the dog handler when she tried to put him in the bus. He clearly wasn’t happy so we had to abandon that idea.
That first year was hard work but roll on 2 years and life with Teddy is completely different. After a year, he suddenly seemed to settle down. He was calm, loving, fun and well-trained, most of the time! We had to adjust our lives to being dog parents, just as we had when we had our first child. We all had to adapt our schedules; take the time to get to know Teddy and his cues, to work out what he was trying to tell us, and we had to be consistent with him so that he could understand us too; much the same as we had to do with our kids. We also found an amazing local dog walker. She was so patient and calm with Teddy, he quickly came to like and trust her. It took some time to find our dog-parenting confidence. We couldn’t imagine life without him now, he is part of our family and everyone adores him.
I may start the day thinking of ‘walk the dog’ as a chore that needs to be ticked off, however as soon I see him skip and run at full pelt when he is let off the lead that feeling is replaced with pure delight. Tuning in to his energy, whether he is chasing after squirrels or crows, or sniffing other dogs we meet along the way, makes me forget everything else. At the end of a tiring day, when I relax on the sofa, he comes and flops down next to me with his head on my lap and my heart melts.
So... was that first year of chaos and lack of sleep, worth it? Absolutely.
Katie has worked in Human Resources for twenty years and having always had a passion for psychology, is currently taking a year out to study Occupational and Business Psychology. She lives in Surrey with her husband, two children and dog.