SWB on when altruism goes tits up


LSB has a very big heart, but a very short memory. He has started to bleat about wanting a dog. Last year, I made a terrible mistake. Ostensibly, I took a career break to ease stress and spend some quality time with my progeny, who are still really quite wee. Since himself and I worked full-time hours, I thought that my period off work would be an excellent opportunity to trial having a pet. And what better way to do this than fostering a puppy for Assistance Dogs NI. Perfect, I told myself.  We get a beautiful puppy, get plenty of lovely walks and pass it on to someone who really needs it. Wouldn’t that be a fabulously altruistic thing to do? In theory, yes. In reality, a total nightmare.


An adorable russet coloured Labrador Retriever arrived at Halloween last year. Eight weeks old and exquisite- the cute-ometer went off the radar. You could have eaten her. In turn, Lily wanted to eat EVERYTHING. Labradors are known for their exceptional greediness-this one would have eaten yourself. We tried putting her in her crate during mealtimes, she howled and howled, wolfing her own dinner in seconds and demanding more. Every mealtime was like the Hound of the Baskervilles.


Something I never considered before, but autumn is the worst time ever to get a dog. Trudging the streets on dark mornings and even darker nights in the freezing drizzle, hopping from foot to foot as you wait for them to defecate. Worse than defecation was non-defecation, when she held it in until she was home again and did it on the floor. I could have taken shares out on Dettol.


A few issues arose. One, the dog took no notice of me, ever. No matter how I tried to adopt a strong, authoritive tone, I might as well have said: keep barking loudly, piss on the floor and leap on the table and chew my new bracelet to shreds. Fill your boots! And LSB was even more useless, being a softly spoken type. Thing is, he’s quite a sensitive soul, and while we weren’t meant to lavish the pup with constant attention, I’d come home to the pair of them flaked out on the sofa, Lily’s head on his shoulder, the picture of contentment. “She’s meant to be in her crate, on her blanket, she’s a working dog!” I’d remonstrate. “She’s a baby and she needs a cuddle, so bugger off” he’d retort.


Father Jack was also only 2, and a petite sort of a creature, so the puppy just knocked her flying. Wise Old Elf was beyond terrified that in a fit of ebullience she’d lose an eye by a wayward claw, so he was thrown into a state of panic that no amount of Rioja could quell.


Then every week, the puppy had to be taken for training and meet all its siblings which sounds like a jolly enough affair. However, I appeared to be exceedingly inept at this. It was like being the dopey child at school; if I remembered her training bib, I forgot her treat bag, (actually she’d chewed that to shreds). On a couple of dreadful occasions I had to bring the small child, who was completely overwhelmed and cried plaintively throughout. I was on a knife-edge. Having this bouncy, noisy, non-toilet trained creature 24/7 took its toll on my nerves. With FJ still in nappies, I had to clean up an inconceivable amount of poo. I felt like Lady Macbeth, hands red and raw.


The last straw came at the so-called Christmas Party. I misread the missal, and thought we all went in fancy dress. So training bib was left at home, and pup dressed in a scarlet furred ensemble, like an assistance dog for an autistic elf. The year before we had ordered matching elf costumes for the park run, which, in the midst of the turmoil I couldn’t find. With five minutes to spare, I threw on a red jumper and, a black leather skirt and red tights. Etched on my mind indelibly, is the image of me trying to get the pup to walk to heel, then wiping up pee, while being publically chastised for not bringing her correct bib, all in the f**king leather skirt. The shame. Then LSB arrives, all smiles, ready to don his reindeer costume (seriously, is this penchant for fancy dress bordering on a fetish?) and join in the fun. I’m in tears with the dog running rings round me, and the ambiance distinctly lacking in festive cheer.


The whole experience taught me a few things. 1) I care more for soft furnishing than I thought. 2) I need some time off the clock. If it wasn’t a child needing me, it was the dog, leaving me no room for anyone else. When my friend’s new baby wasn’t doing so well there was no way I could be there for her, with this pup in tow. Thankfully, a new foster carer was found for Lily, and I hear she’s doing very well. The best bit though, was that child number one had an acute fear of dogs before, she would have run into oncoming traffic to avoid one. Now, she pesters me every day for a canine pal, but until she’s of an age to walk it herself, that’s a non-starter. My nerves have only just recovered from the other debacle. So LSB, you may bleat on.

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