A while ago, my wife and I took the kids to an agricultural fair, which is like a regular trade fair except you spend £30 on chilli jam and pretend to a salesman that you are going to come back and look at a ride-on mower again, even though you have plastic grass (more of that in another column).
Part way through the day, we went into a barn full of people selling rabbits. It is difficult to believe we haven’t tampered with these animal breeds when they all look so cute you feel that you’ve walked into a Pixar film. This is great for selling rabbits, but absolutely unacceptable for somebody innocently walking through there with kids. The boys immediately fell in love with them, and started demanding we get one. I explained to them how irresponsible it was to go somewhere expecting to buy some fudge, and return with livestock. They were still insistent, at which point I looked to my wife for help, only to find her making a face like Puss in Boots from Shrek. She had defected to the other side and wanted a rabbit, too. I explained to all of them that we needed a bit more time to think about this, and decide which animal we could actually commit to, if any. They demanded assurances that we would definitely get a pet; the only way I could get away from the fair bunny-free was to agree. We eventually decided on a dog.
That was two years ago, and after extensive research we have decided that now is the time to pull the trigger, in a metaphorical sense. It felt wrong to make this decision during lockdown, as it appears that lockdown has become the new Christmas, with people buying up pets left, right and centre. This has led to a proliferation of dodgy breeders selling overpriced puppies and keeping dogs in appalling conditions. I was keen to avoid this, as it seems a little hypocritical to live a vegan lifestyle and then pick up a dog from a puppy sweatshop. I also have to field questions about how I can be vegan while keeping a dog prisoner; or how I can be vegan while feeding a dog meat, which are both signs that the morals of veganism are complex, and also that my friends are pricks.
We have got ourselves on to a list and are now waiting excitedly for our pup to arrive. This has been slightly disappointing for the boys, who assumed that you order the dog from Amazon. We plan to spend our time researching how to look after a dog, how to train it, and convincing the boys that we all need to do an equal amount of poo clearing up, although I cannot be entirely sure that they won’t find it funny to fling it at each other.
The other phenomenon I have become wary of is the trap many dog owners fall into of talking about their dogs all the time. They will share videos online with the caption: “Cannot believe how funny Buster was here!”, and then you watch the video and it’s just him drinking from a bowl. Or they’ll say, “He’s like a person!” with a photo of him wearing a hat. These are the true dangers of pet ownership.
And so we wait. We are in R&D mode, preparing the family for a dog that doesn’t yet exist, making sure we are ready to look after him as best we can. I’m actually hoping it’s a challenge, otherwise they will definitely be asking for a second one.