“But it will be so amazing,” I pleaded. It was October 2018, and my partner and I were discussing a puppy. He wasn’t so keen but I was relentless. We’d recently moved to a Manchester suburb with a scattering of dog-friendly bars, and I wanted a furry companion to sit with in the pub.
My pleas worked. Two weeks later, after nowhere near enough research or preparation, we brought home Bessie, a 10-week-old beagle puppy.
Doe-eyed, floppy eared and as quiet as a mouse, I was convinced we’d struck gold. She curled up next to me while I worked, slept on my lap while I read and charmed all the guests who rushed round to visit. Bessie was a perfect puppy, I told myself – the most adorable, docile dog in the world.
It didn’t last long. Six weeks later her somnolent whelp had transformed into something else entirely. Now four months old, she suddenly stopped sleeping. She whined, she chewed, she destroyed cushions, books, shoes, and laptop chargers.
Bessie had brought so much fun and joy to our house, but the truth was, she was always looking for trouble. We couldn’t turn our backs for one second.
For the next two months, I had to get Bessie out of the front door within five minutes of her waking up in the morning. There was no time for coffee or breakfast. She had to be marched around our local park immediately, otherwise she would get to work, chewing the corners of skirting boards and diving into the wash basket. One day, she was behaving so outrageously that I found myself pretending to cry in a bizarre attempt to make her feel sorry for me.
At our dog training class Bessie was excused from learning all the commands, because, as the trainer put it, “she’s a beagle” – expert code for “she’ll do what she wants regardless”.
Six weeks later, when all the other dog owners smugly walked away with their perfectly behaved German shepherds and cavapoos, who had all mastered “wait”, “leave” and “down”, Bessie was instead awarded a certificate for being the “sweetest dog in the class”. But I can’t pretend I wasn’t proud.
Of course puppy ownership brought many happy times, but I’m sharing my experiences because it’s been hard to ignore the sudden appetite for puppies during the lockdown. Prices have shot through the roof, and charities have warned of an impending dog welfare crisis.
Exasperated owners are considering getting rid of lockdown puppies because “they’re not what we wanted” or it’s been harder than they’d imagined. In some cases the tables are turned, and they try to get rid of themselves, as Christian Lisseman finds here. That sweet, fuzzy pup you meet at the breeders doesn’t stay like that for long.
But that’s not a reason to give them up. Remember what I wanted? A dog I could sit with in the pub. Well, it turns out Bessie, a rampant explorer with a nose for adventure, won’t really sit anywhere. The only place she will really sit is at home, in her own bed, after being coaxed into it with a treat.
But it was all worth it. Now a respectable two year old, Bessie spends her days lounging around, occasionally lifting her head in interest when somebody opens the fridge. The wild days of puppy and adolescent carnage are over. But for many lockdown dog owners who were lured in by those sweet puppy dog eyes, I suspect the fun is only just beginning.