New Family Member

Buying a dog for Christmas was never an option. Everyone knows, that’s the wrong thing to do.

“A dog is for life,” after all. Presumably that expression is referring to the dog’s life? I hope so anyway.

I suppose, “A dog is a 10-15 year commitment, not just for Christmas,” isn’t quite as catchy.

So Christmas was out. Instead, we opted for Easter. So much better.

But then Easter 2020 got cancelled. F***ing corona.

Stuck at home, with all of this perfect house-breaking and training time available, the puppy conversations started again in earnest. There was even a performance (song and dance) by my daughter and her friends, begging for a puppy.

I think my wife and I actually put more thought into planning for the dog than planning a family (sorry kids). The costs, the inconvenience, the training, the breed, what if one of us is allergic, what about holidays? We certainly discussed it for longer than we did having a third child! (“Do you wan-” “Nope. I’m good.”).

But that was just it – this would be our third child. The fifth member of our family. It had to be the right for all of us, and again, for the foreseeable future.

We wanted the kids to have a puppy and have those fun memories when they were grown up. We were also in no denial about the facts that a) the novelty would wear off eventually and b) puppies grow up – and then we have a dog.

So what am I looking for in a dog?

Breed

The kids don’t know a Pomeranian puppy from a poodle puppy. A puppy is a puppy. It’s small, it’s fluffy, it’s cute. It will love them, lick them, fetch a stick for them.

I, on the other hand, was never going to agree to a “handbag dog”. No yappy little rat-looking excuse of a dog for me. I wanted a DOG. A real dog. Not a massive dog, so no lurcher or Great Dane. Not an accessory to try and look “well ‘ard”, so staffy’s and boxers were out. Not to look “cool”, so huskies and Alsatians were out. And minimal chance of the kids being eaten meant that rottweilers and dobermans (is it doberMEN?) were out too.

My ideal dog had to have the following qualities:

  • Intelligent – enough to train and behave
  • Gentle – child-/people-friendly
  • Playful
  • Quiet – minimal barking
  • Short-haired – minimal grooming
  • Endurance – Good for running and hiking, going long not fast
  • A dog – as opposed to a bitch (I’m in for some bad karma soon, but he can enjoy “them for the next little while)

I reappeared from the rabbit hole known as google a few hours later with a clear winner: border collie.

The border collie ticked all of the above, and I was quite excited to read about people running full marathons with their working dogs. I doubt I’ll still be running full marathons by the time our pup is old enough to run that distance, but it gives me a great reason to run regularly and stay in half marathon shape.

Dog Hunt

The next step was to find a puppy online, purchase and collect. Sound so easy right? Well not during lock down. Everyone in the UK had apparently gone through the exact same thought process (which always troubles me) and border collie pups were selling like hot cakes.

Whole litters were snatched up minutes after being posted online, and the prices seemed to be creeping up as well. At one point the only pups that seemed to go unsold, were those on farms in west Wales and the Scottish islands.

Eventually I found a collie-cross a few hours away, made the call and took the plunge. It was love at first sight, and despite not enjoying the car ride home, Ronnie was incredibly excited about his new home – as were my kids. There were some tears of joy when he arrived and lots of cuteness and laughter late into his first night.

I was told that Ronnie is 3/4 border collie and 1/4 Huntaway, so he’s a collie cross. A h-ollie, if you will. Or if he’s been naughty a c-

…oh alright, I won’t go there.

Anyway, judging by the size of his paws and the rate he’s growing, he may well be 3/4 Huntaway and only 1/4 border collie. He moves like a big dog as well…you know, like those 5 foot bodybuilders carrying invisible buckets of water? He’s about 2 foot tall but struts around like he’s Scooby Done That, Been There.

So Far, So Good

Ronnie’s been a dream to train so far, and at 14 weeks old we’ve still got plenty of time for learning new tricks! We’re all greeted each morning by this joyful, loving creature and our family walks in the woods are even more enjoyable now. I can’t run with him as much as I’d like yet as it might damage his bones and “plates”? Also, unless he starts becoming more or a pooch and less of a pussy, he’s not going to be a great guard dog (he growls and then hides behind us).

…ok, so he’s no help with the gardening!

So I’m looking forward to:

  • teaching him to play “Hide and Seek” with the kids
  • teaching him to catch a frisbee (he’s mastered fetching a ball)
  • camping with him
  • running with him – maybe even a Parkrun when they restart?

Most importantly though, long after covid is a distant memory Ronnie will still be with us, his arrival having marked the start of this new chapter in our lives.