How a Puppy Changed My Life

I’m still not entirely sure why I decided to get a puppy.

I suppose it was partly the need to take my mind off a significant birthday. Also, now my youngest child is ten years old, life is getting much easier, and I think I felt this rather masochistic need to shake it up a bit. To get out of my comfort zone. And then there was the pester power. Once you let the word puppy out of the box, however tentatively and speculatively, you just can’t cram it back in.

And so it came to pass that, four weeks ago, Alby – a border terrier puppy, named after Dumbledore – came to live with us.

“A boy can learn a lot from a dog: obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down.”

Robert Benchley

Otto, our ten-year-old dog, dutifully played with the young pup for about half an hour, letting his toys be stolen and his ears be bitten. Then he looked at me, and his eyes said Okay, I’ve been a good host, now when is he going home? I did have some sympathy.

I’m often reminded of those Dutch day-care centres, where geriatrics and toddlers help look after each other. Otto and I are both a bit long in the tooth, a little jaded by life, but suddenly we’re in the company of this ball of energy and enthusiasm.

We’d both rather forgotten how to appreciate the joy of a good walk in the sunshine, a game of tug-of-war or an afternoon kip. Now we have a constant reminder of how incredible life really is.

“Dogs have boundless enthusiasm but no sense of shame. I should have a dog as a life coach.”

Moby

Alby has other skills too.

Things have been a bit stressful in our house over the past few weeks, as two of the the children have exams and I’ve been trying to finish the final edits on novel one while wrangling some sense into the outline of novel two, so the children have started calling Alby ‘Support Puppy.’

Whenever anyone is having a hard time, someone shouts: Bring in Support Puppy! and within moments a squirming, happy ball of fluff is placed in the arms of the sufferer. It’s totally impossible to feel stressed while holding a puppy.

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Charles Shultz

Alby doesn’t just spread the love in our house; he does it wherever he goes.

When you take a puppy on a walk, everyone you meet beams at you. Surly teenagers in hoodies turn into cooing children. Traffic Wardens put down their cameras. Everyone feels a little bit warmer, more gooey inside.

My son, now thirteen, and starting to be a bit interested in girls, has discovered the ultimate power of the puppy.

He asked me to bring Alby to the school gates at pick-up time yesterday. As soon as he spotted us, he rushed over, cradled the puppy in his arms, and walked back into the throng. Within seconds he was mobbed by girls, all desperate for his attention, all wanting him to shower the puppy love in their direction.

“My little dog – a heartbeat at my feet.”

Edith Wharton

So Alby, despite the hit-and-miss house training, and his fondness for chewing expensive trainers, is here to stay. Even Otto has fallen for him.

Just when you think your heart can’t possibly expand any further, you find a puppy shaped space, right in the middle.

As always, there’s more on the Life in the Hot lane Facebook Page, including Lisa Timoney on why men shouldn’t have the monopoly on the mid-life crisis! (Check out Lisa’s new website – Lisa Timoney Writes). There’s also Throwback Thursday, with a discussion about bizarre office rituals from the 80’s and 90’s. ‘Like’ the page to stay updated.