THE LOOK OF LOVE

I vaguely remember owning a dog. The memories are tucked away in a fuzzy folder, that stage in my childhood impacted by the divorce of my parents. My brain doesn’t allow me to fully remember what life was like but I do remember she was a poodle. Her name was Suki and she appeared at shows. Her puppies sold for big money. I never walked her once. Or threw a ball, or a stick…

What I do remember is being introduced to Jack Russells, courtesy of my wife’s family. Over 37 years I had the joy of meeting four of them. Did I ever have affection for them? Certainly not for the first three. Barking mad the lot of them! The last one, though? Affection would be pushing it, but he was special. He knew that his owners, my now in-laws, were approaching the last decades of their life. He treated them well. They loved him. He loved them. For me? He was a dog…

Mrs Ireland loved that dog. I didn’t fully appreciate it until he was gone. Taken to the vet to finally stop his pain he took the stairway to doggy heaven, made his way over the rainbow bridge. It broke Mrs Ireland’s heart.

Family discussions resulted in a decision to acquire a new doggy ‘baby’. We agreed on shared ownership to fill the void left behind by the passing of the number one Jack Russell. I was sceptical. Our life had, so far, been relatively easy. Never having been parents we went where we liked, when we liked, as often as we liked.

The night before our doggy ‘viewing’, we drank wine and laughed about being doggy parents. We were excited by the prospect. Our potential new boy was the son of a top ‘male model’. His dad was (still is) an award winner for strutting down doggy catwalks.

Arriving at the breeder’s home, we were introduced to ‘mum and dad’ before meeting our eight-week old boy. A Jack Russell? No chance. They bark too much and malt a lot. This was a dachshund. A miniature dachshund to be precise. His legs were that short I honestly thought he was a seal pup! Mrs Ireland had tears in her eyes. She melted there and then.

We settled down for the drive home. I looked at my lifelong love. She looked at me. She looked at him. He looked at her. I looked at him. He looked at me. I knew then I was in trouble. There was a third person in this marriage…

It was 2020. Boris had told us, ‘You must stay at home’. Our new boy didn’t meet another dog for months, and every human wore a mask. He knew only us, the three of us, safe in our little bubble. There were times he drove me nuts, but he was just a puppy, what did I expect? The nights of constant crying, though, were endless. I spent hours trying to console him in the middle of the night, nothing seemed to work.

“THERE IS NO WAY HE WILL EVER SLEEP IN OUR BEDROOM…”

This was one of many rules that were soon to be broken. This particular rule was broken one night at 3.20am. I was in the kitchen. It was my turn to look after our crying baby. I was sooo tired. I looked him in the eyes, silently pleading with him to go to sleep. His eyes said: “I just want to be with you guys”. Reluctantly – desperately – I carried him to our bedroom. He slept there (in his own bed) for hours. So did we. He still does. So do we.

As we emerged from lockdown, our boy ventured out into the big wide world. As for me, I had joined the dog owner brigade. Meaning, I spoke to so many other dog owners, but how funny it was that I always left knowing their dog’s name but not their own! And, of course, everybody loved him. “Aww, he’s so gorgeous.”

BUT HE’S JUST A DOG, RIGHT?

We joined various social media groups for dachshund owners. It was enlightening; thousands and thousands of people all asking the same questions about how to handle and train the breed. It was reassuring to learn we were not the only ones with ‘sleep’ issues.

Our wee boy is now three years old. How we laugh at those just embarking on the same journey (sorry!). How do I stop him barking? Why won’t he walk in the rain? Why does he always pee in the house?

IT’S BECAUSE THEY ARE DASCHUNDS!

Mrs Ireland thought it would be fun to set up an Instagram account for our boy. I went along with it, but really? Seriously? It would never take off. I kid you not, this guy has a worldwide following – hundreds more followers than my own account. Henry the Hotdog, based in the US, is his number one fan, always quick to give a thumbs up to the latest post from our boy.

And who knew dressing up your dachshund was a thing? The products available to purchase, not to mention the cost of those products, is mind-blowing! It’s a huge industry.

At a recent pup-up café – exclusively for dachshunds – I saw dogs dressed as ballerinas, dinosaurs and hotdogs. Some wore fairy wings, others wore a cowboy hat. We’d never dress our little boy in those ridiculous outfits… would we? Thankfully, Mrs Ireland has restricted our dog’s wardrobe to bandanas, snoods, and the odd bow-tie. And once again, at that particular event, I left knowing the names of almost 20 dogs but didn’t quite catch the names of their owners…

Once we’d mastered the various challenges associated with behaviour, we started to think about holidays. We’ve always liked to travel. Abroad. But what do we do with his lordship

whilst we’re away on holiday? When I was young, a dog would go to boarding kennels. Nowadays? A dog hotel and spa! Some even have underfloor heating, a TV and, believe it or not, spa treatments! What do you do when the cost of your dog’s accommodation is likely to exceed that of your own? Stay at home!

But… he’s part of the family. When I come home from work, he’s there. He runs around the kitchen table in excitement. He knows it’s playtime, and he’s ready and waiting as soon as I walk through the door. I may have had a bad day, but he makes it better. He’s far from perfect, he’s definitely a challenge, and for such a wee guy he has a huge personality. In fact, it’s true what they say: dachshunds have the heart of a lion, the brain of a fox, the body of a sausage and the bark of a Doberman! I’m still glad we didn’t get a Jack Russell…

Until our wee boy came along, I never considered myself a ‘dog person’. Now I watch reels of dachshunds carrying huge sticks, barking at potted plants, and running up their ramp to jump on the sofa (yes, we have one those!). I also read quotes like ‘A dog is only with you for a part of your life but for them, you are their whole life’. Aww…

I remind myself of that when he has the audacity to walk (no, strut) into a room and demand my wife’s attention. Attention that I was previously the sole recipient of. It only takes one look, every time.

Our boy stole Mrs Ireland’s heart. He stole mine too…

Woof.