Our son Jeffrey wanted a dog from the moment he could say the words. We were dead against the idea. After six years of the same appeals from his older sister, we thought we were immune. You know that old line about avoiding clichés like the plague? Let me tell you, the old saying about dripping water wearing away stone is a cliché because it’s true. One child appealing for a dog is almost impossible to resist. When varmints join forces, the intermittent question becomes an endless loop.
It was time to compromise, without being seen to back down. We got a cat—purely to deal with the bank voles and wood mice attacking my seedlings and bulbs, you understand. It worked, but only on the divide and rule principle. Our daughter became the Norwegian Forest Cat’s willing slave. Jeffrey wasn’t so easily distracted. He soon got fed up with watching our cat’s neat trick of running headfirst down trees. When he found out cats don’t chase sticks, or come when called Jeff found a better use for our first furry fiend friend.
‘You say you always treat us alike. But now she’s got a pet and I haven’t,’
There’s only so much of that any parent can take. We tried kicking the can down the lane (confident that cat wouldn’t chase it).
When you’ve grown up and have your own house, then you can have a dog.
As time went on and the chances of anyone of Jeff’s generation becoming a home-owner evaporated, we had to rethink.
Finally, with Jeffrey’s sixteenth birthday on the horizon, he wore us down. He could have a dog—as long as he paid for, and looked after, it himself.
Never has a dog been more carefully researched or anticipated. He was already Mastermind material on the subject of dogs, their variety, care and use. After years of being interrupted at all hours of the day and night with some new nugget of obscure dog-lore, he brought out the big guns.
With a mother’s desperation, I tried using this crisis as an opportunity. When it comes to money, Jeff has inherited my family’s genes. We are all as tight as a duck’s behind (and that’s watertight).
‘You’d have to pay all that yourself, understand?’ I said, expecting a horrified silence.
‘All right,’ he said.
It was my turn to go quiet.
Jeff had decided on a golden retriever. He found a Kennel Club approved breeder. You’ll be wondering why we didn’t suggest a rescue dog, when there are thousands of lovely animals looking for a second chance. My sister had not one, but two, dogs from a reputable rehoming source. She was checked, vetted and passed as 100% fit to home a dog. Within a very short time of taking them on, each of the dogs she adopted turned out to have big problems hard-wired into their systems. I’m sure 99.9% of rescue dogs are perfect, but I didn’t want Jeff, as a novice dog owner, faced with unkinking any quirks already embedded in his new pet.
The breeder interviewed Jeff thoroughly, to make sure he was the right person to adopt one of her dog’s puppies. He was asked lots of questions, ranging from how big our garden was and how well it was fenced, to whether there would be someone at home all day, our holidaying habits, and how much time he could give to his pet once school and homework were taken into account. One he passed the test, the waiting began. The breeder’s golden retriever bitch was expected to have puppies in the autumn. Sadly, she didn’t come into season when expected. Jeff faced waiting another year for his puppy. To get so close to dog ownership after years of waiting was a big disappointment.
He was resigned to another long wait. A couple of months later, we got an unexpected call from the breeder. As well as pure-bred Golden Retrievers, she also bred retriever/lab crosses, which are highly prized as assistance dogs. With a litter due knowing how disappointed Jeff had been at missing out, she offered him first choice if he was willing to accept a cross-breed. He couldn’t agree fast enough!
Four months after that, we brought Alex home.
It wasn’t exactly an easy transition. Despite being given a soft toy impregnated with the smell of his mum and litter mates, Alex screamed all the way home in the car!