For most of the history of dogs and dog-kind, the phrase “man’s best friend” has been used and overused to describe our relationship with those four-legged balls of fur that roam our homes. I simply believe this phrase isn’t doing justice to what I have discovered having a dog is truly all about. We (my wife and I) were searching desperately for a dog last year, approaching the task with an uptight demeanour normally reserved for purchasing houses or private jets. This was a dog after all; we couldn’t just dump it in the bin if we found it lacking or take it back to IKEA for a full refund.
Daisy the Shih Tzu came from owners who seemed startled that they even had a dog, much less needed to feed and care for one. Despite our reservations, Daisy was really impossible to resist. She was charming from the short 30 minutes we got to spend with her. Excited, tail wagging like a furry metronome, she danced around us in the joy of being given attention, culminating in her flipping over to allow us to rub her stomach, a favourite activity of hers. We bought her.
Little did we know the impacts of allowing a new furry friend into our house. We knew that having a dog would be fun, new…but life changing?
Absolutely. Gone are the days when all we would see of the children was a quick flash as they dashed through the door and dived onto the sofa, tablets and smartphones in hand. Gone are the days when I would drearily look forward to a day of some mild work and staying at home. Gone are the days when the most exercise I did was walking back and forth to the kitchen cupboard to make cups of tea for diminishing returns. Daisy was here!
Trying to explain having a dog to a non-pet owner is like trying to explain having a child to a stubborn teenager who thinks kids are ‘icky’. Dogs can teach you a new level of responsibility, love and respect. Let me try to impress upon you how this happens. Dogs require constant care and attention, yes, but they give almost exactly what they take. Daisy’s joy is palpable every time she is taken on something as simple as walk, or every time she flips over for a (aforementioned) stomach rub. Daisy is a quiet dog, but not timid – whenever she growls, you can be sure there is a problem with you, not her. Our communication with her means that we have learned to respect her, and back away whenever she is uncomfortable, while similarly she respects our control of the household (bar the odd day when she sees fit to sneak upstairs).
But hey, before you think I’m yet another pet-obsessed urbanite consider this; Daisy is no pampered pooch, she has no pet insurance and never will; she doesn’t get grooming sessions at a parlour; she doesn’t get organic, natural, blueberry flavoured gourmet food and no, she is never allowed in the bedrooms.
Having a dog, especially a small, perky and happy dog teaches you a different way of looking at life and how your simple relationships should work. It also teaches you that love, respect and trust are universal values that make happy relationships.