NICKY MARR: Puppy love was lost on me – until now
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Dogs. Woman’s best friend and part of the family? Or an expensive inconvenience that would get in the way of my life and my freedom?
Until a couple of months ago, when Murphy, the golden/red fox Labrador puppy from Fort Augustus came into our lives, I was firmly and forever in the latter camp.
But could it be that I have been won over? It’s a distinct possibility.
As I write this, he is lying at my feet on something called a ‘calm mat’, busily working his way through a dental stick.
There’s the sound of enthusiastic chewing, and a soft thud, thud, thud as his wagging tail rhythmically hits the floor.
Occasionally there’s the gentle pressure of a single paw on my foot, just to remind me that he’s still there.
Since before dawn today, it’s been just him and me. And it’s just like having a baby.
Murphy isn’t ours. He belongs to Daughter No.2 and her boyfriend, who couldn’t wait, and bought the dog before they got a house together, so he lives part time with us, and part time with the BF’s parents.
So, usually when we have Murphy, we have two twenty-somethings as well, who lounge on the settee with their pup, watch TV while their pup plays with his many toys, and feed him his three daily meals, kibble by tiny kibble, each one in exchange for his response to a command.
This food-based training/bribery is paying off… to a certain extent. Murphy has near-perfect recall in our back garden with nothing but the usual garden smells and birds to distract him.
Take him to the park, however, where there is the excitement of other dogs, those other dogs’ owners, and the smell that earlier dogs have left behind, and it takes cheese to keep his attention. Cheddar is his favourite.
But for these last 48 hours, the twenty-somethings have been away, and puppy’s ‘grandparents’ have been in charge. And since before dawn today, it’s been just him and me. And it’s just like having a baby.
It’s about controlling what goes in (kibble, treats, cheese) and what doesn’t (leaves, stones, dead birds). It’s also about monitoring what comes out – and, crucially, when. Especially just before a car journey.
It’s about boundaries, or lack of them. (It seems the closed bathroom door can be pushed open by nothing more than an inquisitive nose.) It’s about coping with teething. And it’s about trying to enforce a little discipline, but being totally won over by beautiful brown eyes, puppy cuddles, enthusiastic licking, and the feeling of being the centre of someone’s world.
Mr Marr has never been this pleased to see me in the mornings. Well, not every morning. Not after 30 years…
So yes, little pup, you have won me over. (He’s snoring now. It’s the loveliest sound.) To all my friends whose own wonderful dogs I have ignored, pushed away, or overlooked in the past, I apologise. I just didn’t get it.
I didn’t understand the love, the joy, the fun, and the company.
Please can this puppy stage last forever?