They say you're either a dog or cat person.
As usual I like to be a little different from the norm and am, in fact, both. Okay it's animals generally I like, but especially with dogs and cats I don't think the two are mutually exclusive.
That is, however, if you get the right mix of animals! Which we didn't. At all.
Quite a while ago we got a rescue dog. Now, I will always promote rehoming rescue animals if at all possible, but you do have to get the right match of animal to human. Sadly the Centre we got Marcie from didn't perhaps take the time to ensure we were right for each other, and our circumstances were such that we couldn't give her the time she needed to sort out her multitude of behavioural problems.
Now we've had dogs before and aren't complete novices, but then we aren't experts either. In hindsight and had our set-up been different we should have got assistance from someone who is, and employed someone like New The Best Of Richmond Member and dog trainer Zoe Tomlinson at Teacher's Pet Dog Training.
Now, we had two cats at the time, and when we met Marcie at the Centre they were clear they didn't know her history, so we tested her with a bomb-proof cat - no interest. Dog: cat, cat: dog - nothing. In fact they displayed such a lack of interest in each other it was almost embarrassing and I felt like apologising to each of them on behalf of the other.
She seemed like such a chilled out creature, gentle, affectionate, obedient - we thought we'd found a total star. Yes when we got her home she got very excited by the cats (who promptly took up residence upstairs and refused to come down), but that we put down to adjusting to her new home.
The first week or two was delightful - long walks round Richmond, training sessions, I'd take her up the Richmond Park and thwak golf balls around her her to fetch - a real honeymoon period. Working from home helped as were were always around. Little behaviour foibles were accepted and we hoped we could iron them out. Then they started to get worse.
Firstly, Marcie's interest in the cats increased, and we felt that if they snoozed they really would lose and she'd injure them if she caught them. Her nerves got the better of her, and where she'd been happy to be left for short periods, she developed terrible separation anxiety and one night destroyed around £2,000 worth of backed-up work in my office.
She started weeing indoors, and each morning we'd wake up to a lumpy present in the middle of the floor (walking around in the dark in bare foot became a real no-no!).
Every poo she had outside, she'd promptly eat.
She aggressively chased anything that moved - dogs, foxes, rabbits, sheep, cows, a bull, even someone riding a horse (now that could've been a disaster if the horse had been less docile).
She was either a nervous wreck or very aggressive with other dogs, which in our social group was a real problem.
She was great with older children but very nervous and snappy around toddlers - too much of a risk with several in the family especially bearing in mind my partner was pregnant.
There were many other daily issues with her too numerous to mention, and in short she turned out to be a real liability, bless her. She showed every sign of being badly treated in the past, and nothing we tried seemed to help.
Had it been only one or a few of the problems we'd probably have persevered, but especially with her erratic behaviour towards children, we finally reluctantly threw in the towel and took her back to the Centre after a little over 2 months. We were at least able to give them a full character assessment of her to help her find a more suitable home.
I wish we'd known Zoe at Teacher's Pet back then - I will forever wonder if we tried for long enough or if someone like her could have helped Marcie.
My point I guess is this: if you are looking to get a dog, take your time and consider whether you could devote the time to giving a much needed home to an abandoned pet. Look at all your options and pick the path that's best for you. Don't be guilt-tripped into rushing into your choice of animal, but whether you go for a rescue hound or pure-bred pup I would advise making the investment of proper training classes like Teacher's Pet - it could save you an awful lot of heartache.
Silas Van Der Bas
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Silas Van Der Bas is a freelance writer and photographer with The Little White Studio.