Throughout my childhood my grandparents had dogs. There was Penny, Pixie, Lulu, Topsy and 12 puppies born to their rescue dog mum, Lady. As kids my cousins and my brother played with them and took them for walks. Christmas was particularly memorable for dressing up dogs in tea towels and having them pose as nativity animals. When I think about growing up, four legs feature as much as humans, even though my parents never had one themselves (not for the want of trying on the part of my brother and myself).
I suppose it was always inevitable that I would have a dog but I didn't think it would be in such sad circumstances. I worried that I'd resent it for not being a child and being the 'plan B'. I confess at this point, I have an allergy to the phrase 'fur baby'!
Throughout our IVF we talked about a 'NED' - Non Existent Dog, what we'd do and where we would go. Of course life with a dog is not so simplistic as dogs have their own behaviours, likes and dislikes.
In the September we learned I had miscarried. In January we tentatively talked about adopting a dog. I am pro-rescue, I guess I've been brought up that way, all my childhood dogs are rescues and it never occurred to me to go to a breeder. We were at a time when my husband was mostly home and I needed a third heartbeat.
We saw four dogs (one was a foundling and was spotted by her real owners on the rescue website), a greyhound was reserved by the time we arrived and an excited labrador we was snapped up by a family as we wondered. And then I saw a little labrador/lurcher cross on the website of Animal Helpline Rescue. She was really much younger than we agreed. We wanted to give an oldie a home, but there was something about this little dog that made me yearn to meet her.
Fleur as she was called by the rescue, was 10 months old and full of beans. Coming out of the rough and ready kennels, she was full of life and affection. Taking her on a walk, we sat for a moment and this dog plonked herself on my husband's feet as if to win him over, already knowing I was smitten. She was spot on, my husband had until then, been ambivalent about a dog. Walking back to the rescue, I held my breath, not daring to answer as this has to be his decision. When they asked if we were interested and he said 'I don't see why not', reader, I cried and my dog licked my face.
We collected her without telling a soul. No friends knew, not even my best friend and fellow dog lover Sue. My parents and my brother found out after she had already visited Pets at Home, destroyed a pig toy and had a nap. And been renamed Molly which absolutely suits her.
Molly arrived when we were best placed to take her. We had a space in our hearts and needed a dog to bring us together. It's not been easy. Molly was lead reactive and I think she always will be cautious but we've graduated from sociability last year. Her imperfections make her a braver dog for overcoming them and us better owners for the learning. We've also found out lots about positive training and Molly adores our friend and dog trainer Cath and her dogs who introduced us to a clicker. We've learned about scent work and obedience, recall, retrieve and Molly can do a perfect 'look at me'.
Dogs do clip wings. My perfect holiday is an out of season beach ideally in Cornwall or Northumbria, with my dog and a big sofa so not going abroad hasn't affected me that much. I did all my travelling before IVF as I knew that would clip my wings a lot more and these days I tend not to fly because of environmental concerns. Some people own dogs and work but for me, Molly's life is so short, I don't want to miss it and dogs thrive on the sociability of humans so we waited until my husband was at home more often. I also made sure we factored in good dog food (Bob and Lush), insurance and the already mentioned training and I don’t skimp on the latter. Training and understanding more about dogs means that Molly adapts to new people really well and she’s well behaved too, the loudest noises she’ll make are snores. She’s at her happiest with a group of people she knows having hugs, walks my husband and I or napping on their laps or running on a beach or a field with four legged friends.
In fact this post is probably one of the more difficult to write because there is so much I want to tell you about Molly. The rescue told us that she was just days away from being put to sleep because she was a foundling on a council pound. Animal Helpline Rescue stepped in and saved her. In turn she's saved me so many times and I really do mean that. I’m never alone with her and she senses my moods in a way that our lovely late cat didn't. We donate money to her rescue on her Gotcha Day and at Christmas to say thank you because all dogs deserve a second chance.
Molly is always there to lick away tears, drop all her toys on my lap (this takes a lot of time, she has a large box of them) and cuddle up with her head on my pillow. My dad particularly adores her, she arrived just a few days after his 70th birthday and to see him play with my dog on the floor is a joy.
So back to my worry. Did I resent Molly for not being a child and being the 'plan B'? No, not once. She's utterly unique and very much my dog. Probably the best dog, but I might be a bit biased!