Today is one year since I bundled myself into my car, with an empty dog carrier, a boot full of puppy supplies, and if I’m being honest, a tad more than a little trepidation niggling away at me. I was on my way to collect my puppy, an adorable mostly apricot coloured maltipoo with smatterings of fluffy white fur on her. And no one was more surprised that I was making this journey than me.
You see, I had always considered myself to be more of a cat person, not a dog person at all. But the last couple of years has seen a lot of change in my life. I have written about some of that already – my fractured relationship and my move North. When I was looking at houses to move to, I showed my sister the particulars of the house that I was drawn to. She looked at me and she said “The only thing that house needs is a dog.” And I don’t know what it was but instinctively, I knew she was right. Something inside me was telling me that I needed a dog.
My ex-husband had always been against us getting a dog in the past. Finally, though, I was free of him, and the thought of having a dog really spoke to me. I was moving into a rural area, and I liked the idea of having a reason to get out of my house and walk every day. I liked the thought of having company when I was at home alone while my children were at school. And I really liked the idea of having some loyalty in my life, especially after my ex-husbands complete lack of that. I wanted a dog.
Of course, first things first – which especially for me – meant research. I wanted a smaller breed that didn’t need huge amounts of exercise, and I was particularly attracted to the Maltese terrier, simply because we had one of those when I was growing up. Muffins her name was. I finally settled on a maltipoo. I did think about trying to rehome a rescue, but as an inexperienced dog-owner, I didn’t feel that it would be good for a rescue dog to end up with me. I also knew I would struggle to get approval to rehome a rescue dog because while I was waiting for my purchase of my new house to complete, I didn’t have an enclosed garden to offer.
Next stage of research was to find a reputable breeder. I couldn’t bear to get a puppy from a puppy farmer. Even to think about that was abhorrent. But to find a reputable breeder took quite some research, reading lots of testimonials, and doing checks from other dog-owners, until I found one that I knew that I could trust, and went to view the puppy – together with her brother and sister – with the parents – a white Maltese mum and a red poodle dad. When I saw her little eyes looking up at me, I was smitten. But I was still cautious. I didn’t want to rush into getting a dog. After all, it is a lifelong commitment. It helped that I wasn’t put under any pressure to take her – in fact, the breeder, Suzanne, even told me to sleep on it before making a decision. But as I left the viewing, I kept looking around my car, wondering what it was that I had forgotten. Then it hit me. The dog. I had forgotten the dog. I knew that I had to make her mine.
I brought her home, and we set about making her feel safe and comfortable and part of the family. She was a joy right from the very beginning and I am so profoundly grateful to have made the decision to have my dog, Brontë, I called her, in my life. Even more so, because of what was coming. Just two days after I brought her home, the prime minister announced Lockdown 1.
It would be fair to say, given the successive lockdowns we have endured, that Brontë came just at the right moment. I cannot overstate how much joy she has brought into our lives, especially as we grappled with losing our day to day normality. Because here is the thing with dogs. They are always – ALWAYS – overjoyed to see you. It is impossible not to smile when you greet your dog. Their needs are few, and pretty basic when it comes down to it. And what they want to do, more than anything (with the possible exception of eating) is to love you. Their loyalty is unquestioning. Once they are your dog, that is it. I see that in my dog’s eyes every time I look into them. She is a family dog. But she is, first and foremost, my dog.
Every day, when I am out walking in the majestic beauty of Northumberland, this beautiful area into which I have moved, I am so grateful to have my little companion by my side. She has cuddled into my boys in the evening when they have been frustrated and despondent by the restrictions that lockdown has imposed on them, providing them with comfort and warmth. She has chased the many (many) balls they have thrown for her. She has bounded alongside sledges as my boys have hurtled at breakneck speed down a snowy slope. And she lies quietly beside me in the home office as I work, and lies nestled on my legs when I read in the evening. I think spending an evening in front of the fire, having a glass of wine, a book in my hand, with my dog lying in contentment on my legs as I read is probably my definition of bliss.
I honestly cannot imagine what I would have done this last year without my girl by my side. So here is to my beautiful Brontë. Happy dogaversary to us both.