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“It should be banned,” said my husband Marcel.
“What should?” I asked.
“Bringing puppies into the school yard.”
He had a point. Our younger daughter Liv, who is 11, had been begging for a dog for the guts of two years. The wailing, weeping and berating was driving us both nuts. The torture would start most days the second she arrived in the door from school, before her schoolbag had even hit the floor.
“Well? Have you thought about getting me a dog?” she would demand.
Marcel would give the reasons why we weren’t getting a dog, then he’d go back to his office, and I would have to listen to the usual stuff while I made her a sandwich.
“It’s not faaaiiirr!” she’d wail. “Why is my life so miserable!! Why don’t I have a dog!!! ALL my friends have a dog!” (Weeping, head on arms, slumped on table.)
Things would then get worse, and culminate in her stamping up the stairs so loudly that one would fear for their survival.
The begging would ebb and flow. Some days it would appear that Liv was accepting the reasons we weren’t getting a dog, but then someone would bring a puppy into school, and the whole thing would once again rise to a crescendo. There would be tears, shouting and stamping, and disappearing into offices, and the whole shooting match.
The reasons why we were so against it could all be boiled down into one thing: Marcel and I wanted to be able to go to Paris for a weekend, say, or Mauritius for six months, You know, dreaming. A dog would put the kibosh on all of that. Liv didn’t care one whit about weekends in Paris: life was divided into today, and some dreamy future where she was baking all the time and running a café.
Eventually it all became too much. I came around, and suggested to Marcel that we should get a dog after all. (I thought that sketching a puppy would come in useful, too.) He was dead against it.
“So let me get this straight,” I said. “Because you don’t want a dog, I have to not have one for the rest of my life?”
“Yes, unless we get divorced,” he said (he’s a great advocate of bringing in the D word right at the start). “If you wanted an elephant, would that mean we had to get one?”
What could I say to that? But Liv kept it up, day after day. One morning, just after she had slammed the door behind her in yet another enormous strop, Marcel turned to me and said his piece.
“I’ll agree to a dog,” he said. “On three conditions. One, is has to be small. In fact it has to be a Jack Russell to catch the rats. Two, I have to not know a single thing about where it goes to the toilet. And three, it can only happen after August. I want a few more months of freedom.”
“Fantastic. You can tell Liv,” I said.
The day after the puppy came to live with us, Liv asked me to bring him into school, so that she could introduce him to all her friends.
“It’s payback time,” said Marcel.
The puppy has been a wonderful addition to the family. Thanks to Dr. Ian Dunbar’s work of pure genius, After You Get Your Puppy, training has been a doddle, from toilet stuff to fetch and sit and all that kind of thing. The only drawback has been the early rises for me, but it’s beautiful in my garden at that time of the morning at this time of year, with sheep bleating and birds singing, and new leaves on the trees, and the (unmown) lawn covered in wildflowers. And of course now I have a furry artist’s model: so far, I have been enjoying myself immensely.
I used white gouache and a white gel pen on tinted paper for this sketch, which made drawing all that white hair much easier.
Meanwhile, Annie, our breeder par excellence, has also had a new arrival. Her last litter came along just a week ago, and there won’t be any more babies for the next year or two. She kindly allowed me to draw Nina, her border terrier, and her beautiful babies.
The babies look like miniature seals, with black and tan glossy fur. They still have their eyes firmly shut against the scary world, and make adorable squeaks when thet sense their mummy isn’t nearby.
“When they’re a little older,” said Annie, “their tails stick up when they start to feed. As they fill up, their tails drop, until by the time they are full they have dropped fully. Like a tiny milk gauge!”
I loved the atmosphere in Annie’s kitchen as I sketched. We chatted about our days with babies on the boob and how beautiful those days were. It’s just one of the most special things a woman can experience, and we were very privileged to have been able to enjoy such a natural, human – and animal – thing. Annie told me stories about the dog breeding and showing world, some of which made me laugh so much that tears rolled down my cheeks.
“Please, please write a blog about it,” I said.
“I can’t,” she said.
I understood. Maybe I’ll find someone else who’s doing it – but they won’t be as funny as Annie’s blog would be.
Since our hairy baby came to live with us, the vibe in the house has changed. Now it’s not unusual to see me on the sofa, each of my arms wrapped around one of my daughters, the pup draped across us, so that all three can have a bit of him to stroke. And even when teenage – and adult – tempers are frayed, scooping up the puppy, who is very obliging, calms the nerves wonderfully.