Because my second bundle of joy was born during lockdown we were spared the constant judgement and smug comparisons that come with meeting other parents. We were able to focus on our newborn and ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ as new parents are advised to do.
We documented her every move; we weighed and measured her regularly to ensure she conformed to the growth charts. She ate well and was extremely alert; she responded to her name. It took a long time for her to sleep through the night and her potty training had some hiccups. I collected her baby teeth. She settled in well and her older brother was besotted with her. I tried and failed to keep the comparisons in their development to a minimum.
They grow up so fast.
Before we knew it, her vaccinations were complete and so we ventured to the park.
‘How old is he?’
‘Don’t let the beard fool you, she is 3 months old,’ I cooed.
She is Ruby, a standard-size, wire-haired dachshund – our lockdown puppy.
We didn’t intend to get a lockdown puppy. We were supposed to get a puppy from the previous litter but the daffy breeder forgot and over-promised the pups.
And unlike every scofflaw we know, one vicar inclusive, we did not break lockdown to pick up our pooch. When Bojo finally gave the all clear we pelted down to a farm on Bodmin Moor just beyond a forbiddingly shuttered Jamaica Inn.
I have never had a dog before but by the time we whizzed past Stonehenge on a bizarrely barren A303 for the second time that day, I was a dog-loving fanatic. She is my second-born, fur-baby love!
Like any inexperienced parents, we felt our way through the dark. My husband slept downstairs next to her crate for six weeks until she slept through the night. He is determined to hold firm to the no-kids-or-pets-in-the-bed rule with Ruby as we failed to do so with our son or cat.
I was forced to revisit all the angst and smugness of early parenting. ‘Have you done scent training yet? They get so much more out of life if you train their noses.’ ‘Popsicle hunts truffles on Wandsworth Common!’ ‘How’s Ruby’s recall? Archie is perfect!’ ‘Ziggy is just wonderful around children.’ ‘Petal is on a vegan diet; her poos are amazing.’
Of course while Ruby is perfect, she has her peccadilloes. She, unlike Ziggy and every other dog I know, does not like children. Toddlers with their tipsy-toes walking and unpredictable lurching give her the creeps and she feels the need to chase after them, barking at top note. As a result we have to conduct what we have dubbed a ‘peado-scan’ of the horizon every time we enter the park to head off any unfortunate and potentially traumatic encounters.
She often goes ‘squirrel blind’ when one of the bastards is in her sights. She managed to trap a baby squirrel between her jaws. We pried it out but it seems to have sharpened her appetite. The poor rodent limped away like Scrat from the Ice Age movies.
She has chewed through 3 octopus toys, 2 beds, countless tennis balls and slippers. Oh, and the neighbour’s fence.
But she is an angel and has the most adorable cookie-dough paws. Her entire body wiggles with love when she sees one of us. The little curl on her tail and the way she crosses her legs could make you weep, they are so very sweet.
But 19th July and our return to the workplace looms and Ruby must go to doggy daycare. But which one to pick and will they accept her? This is the nursery experience all over again. The human denizens of the evening bark-a-thon, when the neighbourhood dogs maul each other and their owners chat in the field next to where the parents of young children are doing the very same thing in the playground, are filled with advice. Do they do agility training? Do they have a doggy TV room? Do they pick up and drop off? What other kinds of dogs are there?
I set my sights on the Waggy Tails, a full-service kennel, day-care, grooming and training facility and they have a Doxie Day! Next to the Labradoodles, Cockapoos and French Bulldogs, miniature, smooth-haired dachshunds seem to have been the lockdown dog of choice.
After filling out a whopping 4 pages about our ‘babe,’ describing her likes, dislikes, training experience and delineating her barking, biting and playing proclivities, she was accepted for a trial day. As the ‘pawrents,’ we were given extensive instructions about what time she should have breakfast, handover procedures and return times. The dog run is near identical to the school run, just don’t get the lunches mixed up! We were updated via WhatsApp throughout the day.
She was deemed a good passenger in the ‘pooch-mobile’ and interacted well with the other ‘furiends,’ but she was a bit shy and confused. We were treated to videos and got a report card at the end of the day.
Our star ‘babe’ committed no obvious skullduggery and received an open invitation to return and so, a fortnight later, with some relief and a few tears, we kissed Ruby goodbye on her first day of dog school.