The trials and tribulations of dog ownership

Nahla the wonder dog
Nahla the wonder dog

If I were you, getting a dog isn’t something that I’d be entering into lightly. Nahla joined our family nearly six months ago. We ummed and erred for years but finally relented. That little chocolate Labrador has changed our lives.

Some would say that it’s just a dog; it’s not like having a kid. I don’t disagree. There is no way that you could get away with making your kid sleep outside or leaving it in the backyard five days out of seven while you go to work. Those facts are undeniable but so is our reduced mobility and flexibility. I never imagined I’d feel guilty about leaving a dog at home by itself. I can’t go out for a drink after work without wondering what the dog is up to. We can’t just head off for the weekend on a whim anymore. We need to arrange a dog sitter or take her with us.

You also need to consider the faeces. We were up to our elbows in piss and shit when she was a puppy. Once again, people say that it’s no different to dealing with a baby. I’ve never experienced that firsthand but at least a baby’s bowel movements are confined to their nappy. I’ll take that over being on hands and knees at 3am scrubbing a three foot wide patch of diarrhoea out the of carpet. Then there is the destruction to the garden, the fortune that was spent at the vet after a little incident with rat poison followed by the untimely demise of Survivor Chook1.

Nahla in the garden before she turned it into a barren wasteland.
Nahla in the garden before she turned it into a barren wasteland.

While there have been some issues, owning a dog also has so many upsides. Firstly, it is very social. I have lived in rentals in a dozen different suburbs but I didn’t get to know my neighbours in many. That all changed when we got the dog. It gets you out and about and, more interestingly, it gets you talking to strangers. We often take Nahla down to the dog park on Curtain Square where we spend a couple hours each week talking to other dog owners, people we share the neighbourhood with. They’re people that I wouldn’t have talked to unless I owned a dog. I might not know their names but I know what their dog is called. Pet ownership is our common ground. We talk about their routines, their habits, their nemesis and their spectacular failures.

The other great thing is how my routine has changed. I’ve never been much of a morning person but the fact that Nahla rises at daybreak means that I now rise at daybreak. I get up and let her outside and then take her for a walk. Early morning has a different rhythm to the rest of the day. The city comes awake. Early risers make their way to work. Tradies are starting their day. People walking their dogs. Others walk just for the sake of it. The light is different. Everything looks fresher, younger. Birds welcome in the new day. You can hear the breeze making its way through the leaves. I see and hear all of that now because I am out and about with Nahla.

People also act differently around dogs. Strangers stop and ask about the dog. Some even check to see if it’s ok to give her a pat. I’ll never forget when the old woman from across the road met Nahla as a puppy. Stooped and grey, she must be eighty or older. She saw Nahla and her face lit up. She waved then hobbled from her veranda out to the street, she bent down and gave Nahla a pat. She straightened up and smiled a smile that made her look twenty years younger. Puppies and babies, they keep people young.

1 Survivor Chook was my sister’s longest serving chicken until she met Nahla.

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