Not content with ‘just’ having preschoolers and deciding more children was not a happening thing, our wee family decided on a new addition. The question was-would this fifth member of our family complete us as a family?

We decided, as a family, that before our children turned five and while I was still concentrating on being a full-time mum and working paid and volunteer part-time hours from home, it was now or never. After all, a name had been chosen – a full year ago by my children – so what were we waiting for?

So along came Isaac. We welcomed a small, wiry and ‘scruffy’, eight week old Border Terrier puppy happily into our midst.

Having made a life changing decision to get a puppy, we soon discovered the reality that our family had sadly underestimated just how ‘green’ and inexperienced dog people we were. I had been bought up in a cat family and had been around the neighbours large dogs growing up. My husband had been around the family dog. Neither of us had any experience handling puppies. What had we been thinking?

What we had been thinking was, rather arrogantly, how hard can a puppy be? Like many of you, we had seen the plethora of cute puppy and dog pictures in magazines, Internet, on pet food packaging and on pet paraphernalia. All looking fun, child-friendly, cute, cuddly, healthy, well fed and obedient. A man’s best friend. The starlets never had any problems with their pooches, so why would we?

And, I had done my homework… background checks that had involved:

  • approaching and questioning Border Terrier owners around the globe (on every trip abroad I have managed to find at least one Border Terrier and its loving owner)
  • Googling (and subsequently becoming goggled at the volume of conflicting information on the internet about dogs – and I thought the internet was confusing enough for parents-to-be!)
  • relegating old blankets, sheepskin and worn jerseys to be dogified
  • purchasing a crate, bedding, bowls, lead and puppy food
  • choosing, talking with and emailing a chosen breeder
  • talking with my children about how to handle a puppy and what it was not to be fed (along with consequences of such behavior)
  • deciding together where the dog was to live and where was out of bounds for it to go
  • warning everyone about sharp teeth and keeping fingers, electrical cords and shoes out of the temptation’s way.

Are convinced that we were ready? We were.

Now that I am officially a dog owner, I can look back and reflect and laugh at my naivety.

I have the utmost respect for people who adopt children – there are no pregnancy hormones or nine months of pregnancy that can prepare you for your new addition. The impact on your life of any new addition to the family cannot be underestimated or trivialised.

Books, the Internet, patting other people’s dogs and talking to dog owners do not replace the reality of having a small puppy in your life. You can do all the homework you can – purchasing the gear, completing the paperwork, locking down a health professional (and your valuables), setting a date for your new addition’s entrance, and suddenly there you are – surrounded by misplaced poo, puddles of wee, a small crying bundle (in the middle of many nights) that would rather be cuddled up to its mother than put in a foreign box/crate by people who don’t know what they are doing.

The impact on our lives has been dramatic. In a lot of ways, a child would have been simpler – you can, at least, take your child on a bus or train, into supermarkets, libraries, or cafes, and you don’t have bags of dog do’s banging on your thigh, while you are out walking your puppy, until you find a suitable rubbish bin. The lack of freedom from being in canine company can be plain annoying and very restrictive at times.

Having said that, I firmly believe having Isaac in our lives has enriched us a family. As a family we seem to have a more positive outlook on life. We laugh more – especially at Isaac’s antics. We get out more, we find new and exciting parks, beaches and walkways around Wellington, I have firmed up my sagging gluteus maximus, talked with and got to know other dog lovers, got to know members of my community, had time to think while walking the dog, and given my children a new and faithful friend, as well as giving my husband someone to spend time with in the garage when he is working on projects.

I have met a dog-hater and many, many dog-lovers and people who would love to own a dog, or who have owned a dog in the past. I swell with pride when people mutter ‘how cute is that’ when they see Isaac out walking with me. We have been enveloped into a world of doggie people that we had not anticipated. And, we have found that we rather like this topsy turvey, unpredictable world of dogs.

Has Isaac completed our family? The answer is – while he has helped and my children have stopped asking for another sibling, my own inherent craving for another continues. Watch this space.

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Rachel Binning is a full-time jack-of-all-trades who has an extensive background within the health sector. She now wholeheartedly agrees with ex US President, Bill Clinton that “the toughest job in the world isn’t being a president. It’s being a parent”. Rachel juggles being a mum of two active boys with her business, Bella Photography, volunteer work for many and varied organisations that support families, and contributes weekly to community newspapers throughout Wellington.

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