You know the saying "A dog is for life, not just for Christmas"? I feel like it has lost its meaning over the past few years. I’ve heard it less and less. In the absence of this message, I have seen an influx of posts and articles and charities and petitions trying to save dogs in shelters. Dogs that are simply unwanted.
Dogs, along with many other pets, are frequently given as Christmas presents. It seems like a great idea; your kid wants a puppy. OF COURSE they do. Puppies are cute! So are kittens! And hamsters, and rabbits…
It is now easier than ever to buy pets. With the help of the internet, your first puppy is a finger tap away. Ranging from £50 up to sometimes £2000, there are puppies of every shape, size, colour, and breed. Over 50,000 a year in the UK alone are bred in battery style puppy farms to feed the greedy throw-away mentality that we humans have adopted with clothes, food, electronics, and now, it would seem, animals, too. As though they are possessions, gimmicks, ours to enjoy for a minute and throw away when we are bored. The very REAL responsibility kicks in very, very soon after you have picked up your little fur baby.
So, before you think of giving your loved one the gift of a living, breathing thing, bear the following in mind:
A puppy is HARD work.
I will never forget before I got Fang, my now eight-year-old Pug. Every single person I knew told me "a dog is like having a kid." I ignored them. I had cats. Cats aren’t hard work, you feed them twice a day, have a cat flap, give them some strokes… so I went blindly into dog mama land. I was unaware of how all-consuming this tiny little thing would be. I couldn’t just go on holiday and give my neighbour the key to feed him. He needed attention 24/7.
Don’t ever get it twisted, he is the absolute love of my life. I could not be more obsessed with him. In fact, I love him more every single day, if that is possible. He is the cutest, cuddliest, weirdest creature that ever did live, but he is hard work. He is stubborn, for one. He refuses to walk, he wants to do everything his way, his life revolves around eating and finding a way of sleeping in our bedroom or humping his toys. He is emotional, but in the strangest ways that I think only I really understand. My boyfriend is getting there after three years. He turned my life upside down and made me grow up pretty fast…This brings me to my second point…
A puppy will change your life (sometimes not in the best of ways).
Alongside Fang Pug, we have Frankie, our one and a half-year-old English Bull Terrier. Frankie is BEAUTIFUL and so sweet and loving. He is the neediest dog in the world. He lives to be cuddled. If you aren’t touching him, he grizzles, tries to climb on your lap when you’re working (he is now 20kilos) or he sulks and refuses to look at you. Here is where I will admit that I understand why people give their dogs away.
Before we got Frankie, my boyfriend and I didn’t live together. We had been together a little over a year and a half, I had just bought my first flat and lived there with Fang. My dad had recently taken my cat ‘Creep' to live with him because she had gained weight as an indoor cat and the vet had suggested she go live with my dad in the country.
My partner was desperate for a dog. He had never owned one before. He wanted an English Bull Terrier. I researched the breed and tried desperately to sway him away from the idea. It didn’t work. So off we went. One summer's eve, we drove to Birmingham to pick Frankie up. That moment changed our relationship.
We moved in together in my one bedroom apartment immediately, as his living situation did not allow dogs. Let’s just begin by saying: forget your sex life if you’re in a relationship and you get a puppy, because you are about to be living on no sleep and cleaning up poo and pee for the foreseeable future. So that went out the window. Fang pug HATED Frankie, and Frankie just wanted to bite him and play with him constantly.
I spent every night in tears because I didn’t want Fang to be sad, because my lovely flat that I had spent my life savings on was now a giant dog toilet, and because Frankie would not stop taking bites out of all our possessions.
We nearly broke up because I couldn’t see a way out. Every night we had the same conversation, both of us secretly googling things like "Why don’t I love my puppy yet?" Surprisingly, a very common search. In the end, we stayed together. We agreed that one day we would look back and laugh. We just had to get through this stage. Frankie broke his leg when he was very young which also made the stress ten times worse, but we did get through it and we are stronger for it.
Needless to say, we now both ADORE Frankie. I love him just as much as I love Fang. My heart melts in all the same ways and he is so well-trained it even surprises people, but our life is not the same as it was. It won’t be the same again. We made the decision to bring him in to our lives, just like you would make the decision with a child, and I urge you to give it the same thought and consideration as you would that decision, because, believe me, people have said that kids are easier.
A puppy is full-time.
Pretty much the same theme as above, but expanded. Wanna go out tonight? Get drunk? Crash at your mates? Forget it. You have a dog, you need to be there to take him out in the morning to pee and feed him.
Wanna plan an impromptu weekend away with your loved one? Better make sure you got someone who is willing to have your dog!
These animals need full-time, around the clock attention. They are relentless. Right now, as I write this, I have an elbow propped on each dog, both of their faces resting on the keyboard. My neck hurts from the angle but I dare not move, in case they get restless and I can’t finish this piece.
Every morning I get up and the first thing I do before work, before anything, is take them both out. We don’t have a garden so I suit them up and walk them around the block for their lavatory requirements. Then they have their breakfast. Once I’ve done all this I can get ready. It means I add an extra 30 mins to every morning ritual, just in case. I get up 30 mins before I would if I didn’t have them. They then need to be walked during the day, and taken out again around dinner time, and then once before bed. Sound exhausting yet? It is.
Forget having nice things. Ever.
Hey, you know that gorgeous jumper you have, how come you never wear it anymore? Oh yeah, the dog hair, the endless trail of dog hair. On everything. Are you really going to wear those shoes? But you have to walk the dog?! Oh, right, crappy park trainers and old jeans it is, and whichever jacket is already covered in muddy paw prints. Your dog may not jump, other peoples' dogs do, though.
We have resigned to the fact that our floor will forever be in need of a hoover, even ten minutes after it has been hoovered. Our couch is covered in throws and blankets that we periodically wash and switch over, because, let’s face it, it’s not our couch anymore, it’s theirs.
I KNOW our house smells like dog. We live in a tiny apartment with two of them! How could it not! However much incense I burn.
Fang wipes his face on the walls, Frankie constantly treads in disgusting things, and the amount of shoes my partner and I have to throw in the bin every year is getting silly… not to mention expensive… which brings me to my next point.
Puppies are damn expensive.
Yup. Forget the price of the dog. You think that’s a lot? Add on the extra 1K worth of stuff you will buy for your pup in the first month alone. This includes, but is not limited to: beds, blankets, treats, toys, food, puppy classes, vet visits, and any accessories.
Get your dog insured IMMEDIATELY to save any shock vet bills in future. Frankie was not insured when he broke his leg and, believe me, that was not a good day, in more ways than one.
Both of our dogs are on grain-free diets, specific to their breeds and needs. This food is EXPENSIVE. They also get new beds every year. Frankie goes through toys within minutes, and they also have coats, leads, harnesses, poop bags, organic treats, and whatever else we feel they need. Welcome to the wonderful world of loving your dog and embracing being poor.
A puppy becomes a dog.
Probably the most obvious. Yes, puppies are great. In my opinion, dogs are even better. They are less needy, they don’t poo all over my house, and they sleep through the night. Some people, however, just want a puppy, a cute, adorable, instagramable puppy. Once that puppy becomes a giant, stinky dog that needs to be walked and groomed and fed five times as much, people seem shocked.
When buying your puppy, think ahead. Will you still want this little guy when he’s five times this size and he’s jumped in the pond at the park and run mud all over your house?
Dogs live a long time.
Kinda like the point above. Unlike your kids, dogs don’t grow up and leave home, they grow up and stay your baby. They stay vulnerable, they stay needing you to look after them. If you aren’t ready to commit to them for the rest of their lives, then you do not deserve to be blessed with their presence.
You might buy it for your kid, but that dog is yours.
This is one that many parents don’t realise until it is too late. Do not buy a dog for your kids unless YOU yourself want the dog and are willing and ready to take on that responsibility, because your kids will not be the ones paying for the vets and food, picking up the poop, walking the dog every day, taking the dog to training classes, and you damn well know it.
When you are making the decision to buy a dog for your family, bear this in mind: Should you bring this creature home and decide it is too much, you can’t handle this pooping, peeing, barking, home wrecker and you want to get rid of him, dogs put in pounds are given seven days for adoption until they are put down. Seven short days. That is their shot at life, because the shelters are packed and they must make space for other dogs. Rescue shelters try and house as many as possible, but the influx of dogs make it almost impossible. Around 10,000 dogs a year in the UK alone are put down. Healthy dogs that are loving and loyal and should be with a family that will give them the undeniable love they deserve.
Before you pick up the phone and reserve that puppy, ask yourself if this is the best thing for you or your family, if you have the time, space, and money available to give the dog what it needs.
Or, better yet, this Christmas, when you decide you want a dog for you and your loved ones, why not rescue and give one of those discarded babies a second chance at a loving home?