Bow-wowzer, not this schnauzer! When you hate your dog
It may be the ultimate taboo, but I reached a point where I could not stand my dog
It was when I shut the door as he was led away that I crumpled.
I had felt sick all morning and was trying to be strong for my three children.
Sobbing, I took comfort from the words: “Mom, it’s going to be OK. You did the right thing.”
It wasn’t my husband who was leaving – it was my dog.
I have always loved dogs. I never had one as a child, but one of my most treasured books featured the different breeds with tick boxes for when you spotted one.
By the time we were ready to add a dog to our family, it became a standing joke that I could identify the more unusual breeds at 50 paces.
Just like people, I knew the perfect dog didn’t exist, but felt that preparing the groundwork would give ourselves the best chance.
I interrogated dog owners. I lurked on breed forums to assess any issues. I dragged my family around Discover Dogs to meet every breed imaginable.After 18 months of research, we welcomed Merlin, a miniature schnauzer, into our family.As with many things in life, I subscribe to the view that you get out what you put in, and I took time to train Merlin and educate myself.To ensure I had a well-socialised dog, I took Merlin on outings.My caffeine intake rocketed as we sat outside cafés watching the world go by or letting the world come to us to say hello.
We hovered near bin lorries, watched ambulances roar by, met other dogs, listened to an app with a full range of sound effects, all to demonstrate to Merlin that the world was a benign place.
For reasons I still cannot fathom, he didn’t see it that way. I survived the relentless nipping and soiling of the puppy days, but it became apparent that, despite my efforts, Merlin appeared to hate everyone.
Walks became a game of Russian roulette. When strangers approached, I had to warn them he might bark.
He invariably did, yet they still looked slightly affronted.
I started to feel my world constrict.
Merlin was the canine equivalent of Trainspotting’s Begbie – hard as nails.
Would he walk by or would he punch you in the face? This unpredictability was especially hard.
I became adept at conducting a 360-scan of potential hazards that might provoke a reaction. I was envious of dog walkers wearing headphones in oblivion, people meeting for a chat while their dogs idly sniffed.
Off-lead walks in parks were replaced with on-lead walks around the streets to avoid “a scene”.
He acquired a nickname: Asbo dog.
At home, visitors were not welcome.
I deployed distraction tactics, treats, chew toys for when they came, but to no avail. My stock phrase was: “He’ll calm down once he’s used to you being here.”
He didn’t, though. They would leave the room and re-enter only for the barking to escalate again as though he had amnesia.
We stopped having my children’s friends over because they were terrified of him.
Everyone I knew seemed to have picked a breed they liked the look of, found a breeder randomly, had done the bare minimum of training and were in canine bliss. I felt cheated.
To say you don’t love your dog is the ultimate taboo.
A quick scan of Mumsnet on the subject revealed a world of vitriol and judgment.
People talk of their dogs being a cure for their depression; I plunged into depression. I cried more in two years than in 15 raising my children.
I sought advice from a professional who seemed perplexed.
It took an experienced dog-owning friend to give me permission to accept how I felt.
After taking Merlin for a weekend, she brought him back early, listing the all-too familiar issues she had encountered.
When Merlin bit our decorator, I knew I could no longer live with the unpredictability.
As a last resort, I went back to Merlin’s breeder. It was the toughest conversation I have ever had. They managed to find him a suitable home: a couple without children and few visitors, the polar opposite to ours.The day Merlin was led away by the breeder to meet his new owners, I felt I had failed.But I didn’t want it to define us.After a year of deliberation, we took the plunge and got a puppy.We now have our delightful one-year-old cockapoo, Chester. Life with him could not be more different. He’s a lover, not a fighter. I now cry with laughter instead of despair.My world has opened up once more.– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)