So… last week we got “the call” from Battersea. The one that told us they had a dog they needed us to foster; could we come and collect her the next day?
Annie, as she was called then, was a tiny little Yorkshire terrier cross. We weren’t sure what she was crossed with but after some googling at home and staring intently at an internet doggie line-up we saw she was a ‘Chorkie’ – a Yorkshire terrier crossed with a Chihuahua.
I met Nick after work at Battersea Park where he’d taken her for a walk. A scrap of a thing at the end of a lead, legs whirring to keep up with his long strides. It was comical to see. I put her on my lap and we headed in the car out to Surrey.
By the time we’d sat in two hours of rush hour traffic I was smitten. The kids took way less time – one look at her funny little face and pneumatic whirring tail and they were gone. Even Fin, who’d had his reservations about bringing another dog into our lives.
We spent the evening sitting on the floor with her, FaceTiming Nick’s girls Sienna and Tills so they could be part of it, and the kids chose a name for her that meant something to us as a family. “Miley!” shouted Sienna, and there was intense discussion. Our first song at our wedding had been ‘The Climb’ by Miley Cirus, so she has had a huge part to play in our time together. We love Miley Cirus. So, Miley it was.
That night Miley settled down quite quickly, only an hour of outraged barking echoed from downstairs. The next day I was working from home, so once the rest of the family had headed out it was just the two of us. I took her to get a new collar as her Battersea one was fraying; she was so teeney we’d had to cut it. Getting to the shops was interesting – apparently Miley prefers a lap to a passenger seat, and wouldn’t entertain travelling any other way. So, on my lap it was. I’m not sure it was entirely legal, and I panicked slightly, but her little warm body on my legs, curled up and content, was heavenly.
The girls in the pet shop were wonderful, expertly whipping off the old and clicking on the new – Miley was now resplendent in a harness. I left with a carrier bag bulging with spray for puppy urine on carpets, a packet of treats, and a new lead in a red tartan that looked a bit like our McLean one, just because I liked it. A quick nip to Starbucks was interesting. Miley decided that she’d had enough of walking, and stopped stubbornly dead in the street. There was no option but to carry her. Trying to pay for a latte while holding a dog and a carrier bag was interesting. I don’t know how Paris Hilton does it.
We returned home and I got to work. After clearing up a sneaky wee and pooh on the rug (from Miley not me) I settled down with my lap top. Miley jumped up next to me and after an inquisitive snuffle fell asleep next to me.
And so our new routine began.
After five days it was like she’d always been there. Racing round the house, barking at the postman, collecting leaves from the garden to bring one by one into the house, we got to know her little ways, and she got to know ours.
Miley has changed our lives in those short days. Time spent mindlessly scrolling through Instagram has been spent together. As a family she has brought us together, we have worked to help her settle in, and have laughed and loved her as one. She has brought us together when I hadn’t even realised we’d been apart. She has opened my heart again. I have felt the rush of warmth, love and happiness in my body that has been missing for the past six moths return. I now know for certain what’s been missing for me. A dog.
Even Nick, the sensible, practical, organised one in our house has crumbled. He is Mr Spock to my Captain Kirk; he deals in logic and practicalities and likes everything in order – his food, exercise, work and life are looked at functionally, and he deals with all of them in the way that produces the best results. I am not like that. I am haphazard, distracted and passionate and do things without always needing it to be for the best outcome. Which is why we work I guess, because we are the yin to the others yang. But his sensibilities have fallen by the wayside because of a scrap of a dog that can fit in the palm of his hand. She has actually got him in the palm of hers…
Having a dog is not practical.
They take up time. They make a mess. They are expensive. They bark at night. They are a pain.
Apart from the barking, they are exactly like children. And I wouldn’t be without them either.
Dogs make us stop what we are doing. Stop thinking about work and worries and stressing about ‘doing the right thing’ every moment of the day. Worrying that what we are eating isn’t perfect, whether we are progressing and achieving at the same rate as everyone else posting their stuff online. Having a dog in my life has made me see how easy it is to get distracted by stuff that doesn’t matter. It has cleared my head and opened my heart. Without the experience of fostering I would not have felt like this again, and I’m so thankful that I had the chance to do it.
When Miley goes to her new, permanent home, I hope she remembers the time she spent with us. I hope she has a long, happy little life with a family who adore her as much as we have.
Would I foster again? Absolutely.
Will I be getting a dog of my own? Watch this space…
For more information about fostering a dog – or a cat – from Battersea, go to https://www.battersea.org.uk/