MESSY BUT MAGICAL

As I was searching for the scoop in my new tub of collagen powder this morning, I was reminded of those sawdust lucky dips you used to get at school fetes. Digging your hands through a barrel of soft powder to find a toy, sweet or even a wrapped present was so exciting, and dusting yourself down afterwards and making a mess was all part of the delight.

I realised that, even in non-covid times, we don’t really have those sawdust lucky dips anymore. The only lucky dips I’ve even seen at fetes use shredded paper or something equally as sterile. Presumably because sawdust can be messy, kids could breathe it in, it could have woodlice… I dunno.

And this made me feel really sad. I feel like as a society, in all our attempts to do the “right” thing, we have ended up eliminating a lot of the crucial mess of life that truly gives it its soul.

Some of you may know that nearly two weeks ago, the dudes and I decided to adopt a dog. We hadn’t gone out to specifically get a dog, but we said we were open to the idea and a couple of weeks later one that seemed to be the perfect fit for us literally fell into our lap. Even his name was already perfect, Huggy. The universe had spoken, we were meant to have him.

We were told he was a German Shepherd puppy, but when we went to meet him, he was gigantic. When I questioned his size, we were reassured that he was only 16 weeks old. Having spent a week going back and forth to the farm where he was fostered every day to spend time with him and build a bond, we finally brought him home.

At 35kg of untrained German Shepherd, Huggy of course took over. The cats went flying and Nigel wasn’t seen for two days. Charlie kept his distance, only coming in when Huggy was in his crate. But despite the gigantic poos, dog snot on everything, him madly humping our sofa cushions and almost completely unpleasant walks due to his constant pulling, we loved him very, very much, instantly.

Everywhere we went people said what a wonderful dog he was. The vet confirmed he was much older than we’d originally thought so we knew at this point that we weren’t really dealing with a puppy, more a teenager. But he was so gentle natured, everyone who met him agreed that there wasn’t an aggressive bone in his body. “Just give him lots of attention and training and he’ll be the perfect dog,” was the common theme. We were determined to persevere with him, because we felt so lucky to have been chosen as his new family.

By day two, he started to grow in confidence and test the boundaries even more. My back was starting to give out due to the pulling on walks (ordered a Halti lead to help with this), but the worst part was realising that he had extreme separation anxiety and didn’t like being left by me or anyone else really. This was tiring, as he would attention seek anytime there was less than two people in the room. Our house was starting to get a bit trashed as he would steal things, and chew them up, knowing that he’d get attention when we took them off him. And of course, there was his never-ending explicit love affair with the sofa cushions.

On day three, I woke up in extreme pain due to my IC and knew that this would scupper any long walks. I managed to wobbly walk him round the block first thing but after that I was stuck on the sofa. I kept giving Huggy lots of love and throwing the ball for him, but he was having none of it. He kept on stealing the cushions and each time I took them back he would mouth me. No snarls, no aggression, but as a brand-new dog owner this kind of behaviour is shocking with even the smallest dogs or puppies, let alone a dog like Huggy. And I have spent lots of time in the company of snappy dogs (and Nigel the vicious cat-dog) so I don’t usually scare easily. But it’s different when it’s YOUR dog who’s almost as big as you, but you don’t know that well, and you can’t hand the responsibility over to someone else. On top of that I was feeling weak and tired due to being in pain. I just wanted Huggy to chill and let me lie down. But he wasn’t interested in that. And honestly, I felt intimidated.

A bit later on, he did the same thing to son 1 (14), I went full mama bear and all my fear left me in an instant. Son 1 wasn’t bothered though. Shrugged his shoulders and didn’t care. But I was now starting to really consider that Huggy wasn’t right.

When Son 2 (11) came home, who was the entire driving force behind getting a dog in the first place, I told him he needed to play with Huggy as he was bored. But 10 minutes later Son 2 called me into the room and said in a wobbly voice “Mummy, if you wanted to rehome Huggy I wouldn’t mind.” I asked him why, he said Huggy had bitten him twice and he burst into tears. He was now scared of Huggy.

The foster home who had him kept him in kennels on a farm, so these behaviours wouldn’t have been seen, they only materialised once he was in a home environment. We believed we were getting a puppy who was perfect with no issues. This was naivety on my part, like humans, no dogs are issue free, but he wasn’t a puppy which will make the behaviour more challenging to deal with.

I spoke to a dog trainer who had met Huggy and agreed that under the circumstances, it was best that Huggy go and find a new home now. Rather than try and muddle through for another few weeks only to rehome later, which would have been more disruptive and disturbing for him. Huggy needs strong, confident, expert handlers to help him grow into his potential, me and the dudes aren’t that.

We were told that if we didn’t take control, he would get worse, possibly biting, but definitely destroying the house in his attempts to get more attention. These are easily fixed with the right training and an experienced owner. But Son 2 was scared, and I was resentful of seeing that look of fear and sadness in his eyes, and there was no getting past that for me, especially for a dog who we’d only had for 3 days. There was also the peace of mind of our beloved cats as well (who are gits but are part of the family).

Thankfully, another trainer I know knew of a home for him and came immediately last night to collect him. Of course, the minute I’d made the decision, he was the model dog and snuggled beautifully with all of us while we had our last bit of time together. I felt full of regret, it was a tearful night. But once he’d gone and the cats reappeared, and Son 2 said how relieved he was, I relaxed. The right decision had been made.

The thing is, there isn’t a single part of me that feels that bringing Huggy home was a mistake. He was meant to be with us. Just only for a short time. I’m waiting for an update but I’m certain that he was supposed to get to his forever home through me, which he maybe wouldn’t have found if I hadn’t have taken him.

His brief stint at Hotel Beth was hopefully enjoyable for him, he was spoiled rotten (I’m £600 down which isn’t technically how hotels work, but still), and me and the dudes got so much out of those few days with him too.

Huggy didn’t just teach us about dogs, he also taught me about people too. The amount of support we have received from so many people helping us, guiding us or just cheering us on, dog people and non-dog people, has blown me away. Yet again I am humbled by how much people genuinely care enough to take the time to reach out and show support.

But mostly having Huggy has reminded me that life is meant to be messy. The best bits of life are sticky, dirty and disorganised, spattered with bodily fluids and come at you with no warning and no planning. This was what Huggy was sent to remind me of. To take every opportunity, just give it a go because you never know where it might lead.

The magic of life isn’t in the neat, well planned successes. It’s in the random meetings and strange coincidences, the ugly crying, the laughing so hard that food shoots out of your nose, and all the things that just feel right for no apparent reason.

Fear is just there to remind you that you’re alive right now, but you won’t always be, so make the most of it.

So, if you’re thinking of adopting a dog, buying your dream car or house, jumping headfirst into a new relationship (or walking away from an old one), or anything else that seems “crazy” to those around you but completely right to you, give them the finger and just do it.

I promise you that even if it doesn’t work out the way you expect it to, you’ll be glad you did.

1 thought on “Messy But Magical.”

  1. Well, this absolutely proves your title – Proper Grown-up. I feel this whole episode has been a massive achievement and congratulations are in order. I’m so glad that you live life to the full and take every opportunity and feel sure that even if I wasn’t your mum, I’d think you’re amazing. Sadly, as your mum, it’s my destiny to always worry about you, and sometimes that’s hard as any parent will know. In my opinion, you should add PGU to the other letters after your name! Well done. XXX

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