In a complete departure to the normal blogs about kids and all things mummy related, this week I have decided to introduce you all to the furriest and usually smelliest family member.
Riker came into our lives in October of 2012.
We’d always talked about getting a dog, but I was adamant we’d do things in a sensible order and have kids first, dog later. That way I wouldn’t be dealing with dogs and babies at the same time and I could be the cool mum that got her kids a puppy. Roll on a while and I was getting impatient with not falling pregnant and over a bottle (or several) of wine with a good friend, let her persuade me that getting a dog would be a fantastic idea.
That night, I told my delighted husband of our conversation and he jumped right on board. The following weekend, we went off to visit a number of rescue centres in the local area.
The first was thronging with people, all the dogs were barking (as you would), and it was tricky to find a volunteer to talk to about which dog might be suitable. After a mooch around the pooches, none of them leapt out at us (figuratively speaking) so said we’d come back in the week.
The second rescue centre was the RSPCA. We never got past the grumpy receptionist who took one look at us, decided that we were unfit guardians for her precious rescue dogs and sent us packing.
We made our way to the third and final rescue centre, which was the local council pound.
Again, the majority of dogs were barking but there was one, sat in his bed, regally crossing his paws. He was not the kind of dog we had considered at all; I was after something small and fluffy. My husband wanted something big and ridiculous. Neither of us had thought about a lurcher – actually neither of us knew what they were (a cross between a sighthound, such as a whippet or a greyhound, and basically any other dog).
Anyway long story short we thought we’d take him for a walk and then went to get lunch and mull it over. Entirely unprepared, but a little scared by their assertion that they couldn’t guarantee he’d still be there in a week (I’m not sure whether they meant at the centre or on this earthly plain) we ended up bringing him home that day. It was an insanely foolish move but, fortunately for us, it did pay off; he jumped straight in the car, travelled well and seemed fine.
Weirdly, he settled straight in with not even a glimmer of stress.
He was soon upside down in an armchair doing what lurchers do best. Sleeping.
We had expected to have a home check etc and have our dog arrive the following week, when we had both booked time off work.
As it happened, we both had to work the week directly afterwards, which meant we only had the weekend to acclimatise him to the house before he would be left on his own for three – four hours at a time.
On the Monday, my husband worked from home to keep him company. On the Tuesday, he went to work and returned at lunch time to take him out, and then I was home from work shortly afterwards. Nothing destroyed, no mess, everything seemed fine.
On Wednesday, my husband returned home from work at lunchtime to an empty house, with the front door swinging open; the dog… Who knows.
His immediate thought was to start roaming the streets shouting the name that had been agreed upon three days previously. Eventually he rang me at work; I could do nothing but suggest calling the local dog warden, which he did.
Amusingly, or not, he had been picked up by them a little while earlier and returned to the very same council pound we had got him from, where we had to pay more than the adoption fee to release him.
The paperwork showed the reason he had been so comfortable; his previous address was in a house adjoining ours at the back, likely with an identical layout. He had literally moved around the corner.
Still, at least now we knew he could open doors.
(We have since bumped into his previous owners several times. They tell us there was a letter they’d written for his new owners, outlining things like his ability to open doors. It never found its way to us).
Since we’ve had him, he has cost us a bloody fortune.
That Christmas, he had an operation to remove his reproductive capabilities and it went a little wrong. I can imagine the men are crossing their legs here, sorry.
Anyway that was a few overnight stays at the vets on golden time, which was swiftly followed by him tearing himself open on a stick in a river, eating a whole box of cereal (he can open cupboards too, apparently…) requiring around 2kg of stuff to be pumped out of his stomach, multiple scratches, split dew claws and the piece de resistance which was another Christmas doozy; sticking his nose into something which gave him a nasty reaction which although I Google-diagnosed as an allergy requiring antihistamines, was thought to be possibly cancerous by the vet, and required a £500 biopsy. It turned out to be… an allergy requiring antihistamines.
This might make us seem like exceptionally lax dog owners, but that’s over 5 years and I swear he is the most accident prone animal ever. He will also eat (or otherwise destroy) anything even remotely edible left within his ‘could-vault-a-six-foot-fence’ reach. It was probably not bad practice for childproofing in fairness.
Since having children, I would definitely say my feelings towards him have changed.
For one thing, I couldn’t walk him anymore and it fell to my husband because controlling a buggy, or worse a double buggy, or even worse a buggy and a small, loose, free person whilst also controlling a dog is f*cking impossible.
He got on my nerves a lot. For every blinking time he woke up a sleeping baby, I probably did think ‘why the hell did we do this?’ and for every time he puked on the carpet and woke me up at 3am when I knew the kids would be waking me up within a few hours… His daft behaviour even got my husband shamed on the internet.
I admit; there have been times I’ve threatened to let him out on the street.
I wouldn’t though. Mainly because he’d just get run over and cost us a fortune, but also because he is part of the family now. A complete pain in the arse, but part of the furniture, and we wouldn’t be the same without him.