Bringing up our puppy is harder work than a baby

Author Martina Reilly loves her new pet, even if she did wreck the kitchen, eat all the skirting boards and destroy her clothes

Martina Reilly

Author Martina Reilly loves her new pet, even if she did wreck the kitchen, eat all the skirting boards and destroy her clothes

The big day arrived. The first outing with our new arrival. Was it too cold for her, we wondered? Too wet? Would she take to being outside? We took a few tentative steps out of our garden and all seemed well. In the street, admiring looks were thrown our way and strangers started chatting to us. The conversations tended to go like this.

Them: "How old is he?"

Us: "It's a she. And she's three months."

Them: "No way! She's enormous. She must eat loads."

We agreed that yes, she ate loads, mostly things that she shouldn't.

We were given advice by random people on the street.

"Ignore her when she wakes you up at night," someone said sternly.

"Don't feed her on demand," someone else advised.

"For God's sake don't let her into your bedroom, you might get to sleep in the short term but in the long term it'll be a nightmare."

Aw, life with a new puppy is so much like life with a new baby. Only it's worse. New babies don't wreck your new kitchen presses, they don't take their beds apart and eat them. They don't rip their mattresses and chew the stuffing. They don't – let's be delicate – do their business all over the house and rugby tackle you every time you walk into a room.


Bringing up a young dog is a daunting, demanding and scary prospect. It's especially bad when the last dog you owned possessed impeccable manners. Rescued from the pound when he was eight, someone had trained him to sit, roll over, walk to heel. He never chewed anything. He never got up on the sofa or came into the bedrooms uninvited.

We spent a long time wondering why someone would abandon such a wonderful animal. And then the wonderful animal died and I was bereft. I missed his soft warm body and the smell of his breath. I missed the feel of his fur under my hands and I missed our walks.

So, this time around, rather than getting an old dog, we decided to acquire a new one, the reasoning being that we'd get a lot more time with it.

It proved difficult. Our garden was not properly fenced in so the pounds would not let us have one. Determined to have a dog, however, I agreed to take one from a lady whose dog had had nine puppies. She lived 60 miles from my house but my friend and I used the journey as a day out. We travelled down to Cavan, had a nice leisurely lunch and called in to pick up the puppy on our way back.

There were two puppies left when we got there. An enormous one and a tiny delicate little thing. The delicate little thing was earmarked for a neighbour, and I, it turned out, had now acquired a dog with the biggest front paws in the history of dogs. In fairness, she also had the cutest face and the most gorgeous ears. Hefting her into the car, my friend and I started for home. The dog got sick on my friend. My friend never wants to spend 60 miles in a car with a dog ever again.

Once installed in her new home, our puppy, shy at first, has become a romping, roaming rascal. Christened Taylor, after Katie Taylor for her big paws, the first few weeks were difficult.

We ensconced her in the utility room, a small room that we felt she would feel safe in.

Because we were reluctant to close the door on her, husband constructed a fence that neatly slotted into the door frame. It took five days before the dog scaled it and ate a swivel chair.

We made it higher by putting two rows of bricks underneath it. Another five days and the dog was again roaming freely in the kitchen. I had to learn to high jump to get into the washing machine. Husband made a new fence that slotted over the first fence.

This barricade, now over five feet high lasted for two more weeks. We began to think we had Red Rum on our hands. And then, to our delight, she quietened down.

For two days, there weren't any breakouts. Alas, it turned out that she must have seen The Shawshank Redemption in a previous life because she had amused herself by eating through our skirting boards, pulling the plaster off the walls and chewing through some very expensive wiring.

Bricks now had to be put in place all along the skirting. Along with his DIY skills, husband became creative, turning old drawers into a barricade to keep her away from our new fangled heating system with which she shares the utility room. The room now resembled a high-security prison.

Three months on, our patience and love has paid off and she has calmed down somewhat and is toilet trained. She still races through the house for no apparent reason and seems hell bent on destroying every piece of running gear I possess. But her cocked head and little triangle ears are to die for.

"Mammy," my daughter said last week, "she's going to turn out like Samson." He was our last dog.


And she is right. In the meantime, we just have to let her be young.

If you want a clean house, don't ever get a dog. If you want a home, they will add to it with love.

I just wish all those people who abandon puppies every year because they prove too much of a handful could see what they are missing. A dog, like baby, needs time and love. And a chance to grow into a faithful pet.

>What If?, by Martina Reilly, published by Hachette, price €12.46.