It’s 1am on a Sunday morning. My husband and I are stood half way down the kitchen stairs, watching in horror as the underside of the 95 stone crate we are breaking our backs carrying becomes dislodged.
Time slowed down in agonising fashion as the bottom of the crate thundered down the stairs afore us, perfectly lined up with the glass door below.
I could hear my Mum’s voice ringing in my ears, hissing the phrase that no 20-something wants or needs to hear: ‘I told you so!’
The crate bottom crashed to the floor, narrowly missing the glass door. The deadly silence that followed echoed my sheer mental and physical exhaustion.
Next door-but-one’s dog started barking.
From somewhere upstairs, puppy started howling... AGAIN.
Leaving my husband wrestling with the crate, I ran to the living room to gently remind puppy that the entire village needn’t be subjected to his incredible version of Wuthering Heights.
Peering through the living room door, I was alarmed to see puppy missing from his blanket lair!
Ah. There he was...
In a horrific moment that I won’t rush to repeat, we locked eyes, as he squatted down and did a hideous shit on my Mum’s new carpet.
By the way, my Mum is somebody who has spent the past two years valiantly refusing to allow a dog into the home she – as a hard-working, house-proud single parent - has spent so much time and money on.
Yep, it was a real palm-to-face moment.
Right on cue, I heard her stir from the bedrooms upstairs.
“What was that bang? Is everything okay?”
“YES!!!” I yelled back shrilly. “Everything’s fine!! I just dropped a... Some toast!”
Toilet training: it’s unpleasant, laborious and frustrating under any circumstances, but especially given the fact that we had spent the best part of the evening patiently stood out in the garden waiting for puppy to do his ‘business,’ to no avail.
Armed with poo bags, disinfectant and odor eliminator, I dropped to my hands and knees and started scrubbing the carpet, retching at the smell. (Can I just mention that it used to be my life ambition to be a WAG? The only thing I once dreamed of cleaning up was Harvey Nichols.)
Puppy thought this was the perfect time to bring me his string of plastic sausages and whip them viciously across my thighs.
Sighing, I replayed the parting conversation with the breeder just some 12 hours previously...
“If you need anything – anything at all – just give us a ring, okay?”
I pondered whether a frantic call in the small hours consisting of me demanding that they came to take puppy away RIGHT THIS SECOND would be deemed as favourable.
“If I’d know it was going to be anything like this, I wouldn’t have bothered!” I shouted down the stairs at my husband. “I knew we should have adopted an elderly greyhound and been done with it!”
It had already been a long, long night.
No matter how much research you do in preparation of bringing puppy home, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will prepare you for the true horrors of the first night.
Seemingly every website offers different advice, which basically means that you’re on your own when you finally go ‘live!’
Not too long ago, I read a puppy training book, cover to cover, which recommended allowing puppy to sleep next to you – in his crate – on the first night. Other websites swore against this, and some refused to entertain crates all together.
So what were we to do, other than style it out and hope for the best?!
Initially, my husband and I brought the mattress into the living room and set up camp in the middle of the floor with the crate next to us. The plan was to get him used to the crate with the comfort of having us nearby, eventually moving him into the kitchen in a few days time.
Apparently, there was nothing comforting whatsoever about the crate being within touching distance from our makeshift bed. I have honestly never known anything like it. The placid pup we had picked up suddenly turned into a wild banshee, launching himself at the crate door and displaying a disturbing array of peculiar noises.
The sound of the TV didn’t relax him, and he became inconsolable. (I’m not sure whether he just thought Netflix’s The Kissing Booth 2 was utter crap, or whether he was just really, really distressed – either way, the age-old myth of soothing ‘background’ noise proved pointless.)
In the end, we realised that having puppy so close was not a good idea for anyone involved, and after a sleepless hour, we agreed to just go for it and transferred the crate to the kitchen, retreating back to our own bedroom.
It was harrowing, it was heartbreaking, but it was the right thing to do.
Puppy protested bitterly, and I had to launch a handful of Dr John’s Chicken Biscuits into his crate and make a run for it while he screeched the neighbourhood down.
As I climbed the stairs to bed in tears, blocking out the sound of teeth on metal, the hamster (Marzipan) finally shuffled out from his tube and stood glaring at me, his beady little eyes boring into my soul. I could sense the disapproval and disappointment in the stare, and I felt I owed him an apology. This shrieking ball of teeth and sharp claws downstairs was not the sibling I had promised him.
... You know you’ve lost the plot when you’re sat cross-legged on the floor at half past one in the morning having a one-sided heart to heart with a Russian hamster.
But despite the above, our initial meeting with Rolo had ignited what I can only describe as a ferocious burst of ‘puppy love.’
I actually cried as I took in his silky ears and unusual grey eyes.
“He was the biggest of the litter by far. We actually thought he was on steroids when he came out,” the breeder laughed, handing over an actual lump of lard with eyes and a tail. I nearly buckled under the weight. His paws alone weigh about 15 stone each.
His Dad stood out on the farmyard – a giant stature of a German Shepherd who appeared to be part-wolf, part-rhino in physique.
It’s not going to be easy – of that I’m sure, but this adventure and unbreakable friendship is going to be worth it.
I just hope that in time, Marzipan agrees...
Originally posted in August 2020
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©