“I can’t understand why anyone who has had their dog since it was a puppy would ever have another puppy,” I say to my daughter while I try to get a piece of stair carpet from between the jaws of our second puppy.
“I suppose we forget what’s it’s like,” she says with the air of freedom that comes from being on her way out and away from the chaos for a day.
I’m not sure I had forgotten what it was like but I am reminded of where it can lead.
I look at Daisy, four this week, such a picture of low maintenance and constant joyful companionship.
Having a puppy is pretty good preparation for parenting and comes at you like an intensive crash course where many of the same emotions are experienced. Frustration, exhaustion, rage, hopelessness, anxiety, exhilaration, and the feeling that if your heart got any bigger it would definitely burst.
Now that my children are grown up it might be that I miss the nurturing, and maybe even the sense of satisfaction brought by doing something that feels difficult to do properly but feels important nonetheless.
I’ve seen more of this past week than I’d have liked, sleeping on the sofa with the puppy next to me, reaching in when she wakes and needs comforting (hourly), and then failing to sleep myself in nervous anticipation of the next time I hear her crying and demand she can lie on my hand for a moment of reassurance.
Daisy has been predictably unfazed by the whole experience, although she appears thankful that I’ve reinstalled the stair gate so that she can get away from the annoying little sod.
I had been getting to the point where I wondered how long she would tolerate an obdurate puppy biting at her legs but the answer came last night when she tried to do so while Daisy was enjoying a biscuit.
Since then, a new and mutually understood pecking order seems to have been established.
In the park with my sister, one of her three rescues takes off across the grass and steals a pizza that someone is enjoying in the sunshine.
The man in the group is, understandably, incandescent with rage and concentrates his ire on me,
“Can you give me your name and number?” He shouts in my face.
Sleep deprivation renders me incapable of the reasonable action required to defuse the situation.
“It’s not my dog!” I shout back. “That’s my dog,” I continue, pointing at the Labrador standing close by enjoying the drama and, presumably, wondering why no humans seem able to control any of their dogs.
We don’t say much to one another, my sister and I, as we walk back to our cars.
I always feel angry that I’m implicated by association when these things occur, as they often do, and she knows that so the most we get from one another is,
Me: “I can understand why they were so upset.”
Her: “Yes I know. You won’t want to walk with us anymore.”
I want to have the conversation about muzzling her dogs in the park again but I’m too exhausted.
Aside from the tiredness, I know how much stress it already causes her when these things happen and how hard she tries to rectify their delinquent behaviour.
Like parenting and owning a puppy, we mostly have no idea what we’re doing but we know it’s important, so we do the best that we can, and hope that one day our socks will no longer be stolen and buried underneath the honeysuckle.