4 things you need to seriously consider before you agree to getting a dog
A couple of years ago my children staged a masterful campaign of " We would really very much like a dog".
I am personally not a dog person, never have been, and will go as far as saying that some dogs even terrify me.
Their campaign was relentless, though, and it reached its greatness when they created imaginary dogs and walked them every night for a month.
Yep. That really happened. In fact, I could see the dog owners throwing them sympathetic glances as they shouted "good boy" at their imaginary dogs on empty homemade leads as we walked around the park.
Little by little, my resolve weakened. We talked about it. Promises were made about how they would care for the dog, and we talked about it some more.
And then, suddenly, all the planets aligned when a friend was re-homing a Labrador pup and then, before you could say " But I don't know anything about dogs," we had a dog.
If this is you, and you are seriously considering getting a dog, I think it is extremely important to go into dog ownership with both your eyes, your wallet and your heart wide open.
These words come from real-life experience because I did not accurately estimate the costs, care or the love, all of which were greater than I expected.
I was, of course, aware that dogs needed to be fed. I just didn't fully realize all the additional costs that came with owning one. The vaccinations, bedding, leads, toys, treats, replacing the items the dog eats – or, in some cases, not being able to afford to replace them. (Confession: I miss those barely worn boots and the brand new nursing bra the dog chewed the straps off after getting it down from the washing line.)
And there's more. Pet insurance, vet fee's – because even though you pay pet insurance, the excess is high and you still pay up-front when your dog somehow manages to get a bad cut that requires surgery the week before payday. Oh, and then there are vasectomies - the year when the dog and the husband got one was a particular financial low point. Let's just say there was no holiday that year.
Worming tablets, poop bags; it's not glamorous, and it's not cheap. And then there are the optional costs – because it's pretty hard to walk past dog costumes in Penney's at Halloween.
Be aware that some dogs shed, a lot. I spend a huge portion of my limited free time sweeping up dog hair, and, trust me, it gets everywhere.
Also, dogs need company and they need to be walked. Every day. Think of it as a Fitbit, just hairier and far more enthusiastic, and with no graphs involved.
Having a dog is great, though, if you need the motivation to move more, and it is lovely walking them in the park, or on the beach. It's just not quite as great on a grim, cold Tuesday night in January.
That's the problem, really. Because while you quite easily can ignore a Fitbit (I know I can, anyway), dogs are harder to ignore, and they don't give a toss about rain, or indeed, how the rail will make them smell.
And then there is the poop. There will be a lot of picking up poop.
Nobody will love or adore you more than your dog. They will be happy to see you every time you walk in the door. And did you know dogs smile? I didn't either, but they do, they actually smile at you, and adore you with complete, unconditional love. It is very hard to feel lonely with a dog in the house.
There is a wealth of research that states the benefits of a child having a pet. It helps them learn empathy, responsibility and communication skills.
And this has absolutely happened in our home. The dog is their friend. He plays with them; he keeps them company. He loves them and boy do they love him.
He even senses their moods. As in, if one of the children is upset, he will sit beside them and help make their day brighter. I have seen all of my kids on separate occasions come home from a bad day at school. Days when you just know they don't want to talk about it, and they are tired, and they are grumpy.
But once the school bag is dropped on the floor, and they sit with the dog, you can almost see their mood improving immediately. And, well, that sort of makes all the sweeping of dog hair, cleaning up of mess and walking in the cold and rain totally and utterly worth it.
If you are considering getting a dog, please go and talk to your local dog charity and consider adopting a rescue dog. Dog pounds and trusts are full of beautiful, friendly dogs waiting for their forever home, and they will help you find the right dog for you and your family.
Deborah McCarthy is a mum-of-four, a procrastinator, a caffeine enthusiast, a picker-upper of things. She writes about being overdrawn, overtired, overemotional and overwhelmed on her hilarious blog, The Clothesline