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Olly Mann: Dear Dog Diary

BY Olly Mann

13th Mar 2023 Life

Olly Mann: Dear Dog Diary

Olly Mann gives in to his family and gets a puppy, opening up a whole new world of chaos, cuteness and canine adventures

Back in October, I wrote about my ambivalence towards dogs; a column triggered by a sneaking suspicion that my family wanted a puppy so badly I might as well get prepping and clear out the car boot.

Sure enough, my missus then organised a trip to a breeder, "just to see", and, inevitably, once our three-year-old snapped eyes on the litter, a deposit departed my bank account within days.

Ever since, I’ve kept a diary:

MONDAY

After an epic Pets At Home bonanza, we’ve surely got all we require for the puppy’s arrival in three days’ time: a plush basket, squeaky toy banana and bag of treats.

For names, we are mulling over Spike, Lenny or Lionel—but, as I reel off this list to a Black friend of mine, I suddenly realise they are all names associated with famous Black men, and panic that this is a microaggression.

TUESDAY

Our friend Sam—a horsey lady who used to run the village kennels, and whose pockets are perpetually stuffed with dog biscuits—has kindly volunteered to "puppy proof" our home.

“You don’t want to give him that squeaky toy, that’s encouraging him to eat your sofa”, she says, inspecting our purchases disapprovingly. “And that basket is going to get urinated on!”

"Dr Ian Dunbar is Supernanny for dogs"

She hands us a plastic bowl, a pile of newspaper and a wire cage, says we must unplug all table lamps, remove all kids’ toys upstairs, and permit the cat to sleep in our bed, so that he has a "safe space".

She hands us a book, by Dr Ian Dunbar. “This guy”, she assures us, “is Supernanny for dogs."

WEDNESDAY

Spent last night swotting up on Dunbar. Am now terrified. Don’t buy a puppy that’s been raised on a farm, he says (too late to backtrack on that one!).

Toilet-train the puppy via a strict routine, he insists: take him for a pee each hour, then offer ten minutes of "focused play", then return him to his cage so he self-settles. Eh? A pee every hour? What are we supposed to do through the night?

Dunbar has plenty of wisdom on "positively communicating" with the pup, but zilch on how to get some kip and go to work with two young children also in the equation.

Illustration of Olly Mann looking after new puppyIllustration by Lauren Rebbeck

THURSDAY

D-Day. Puppy is a black tan poodle crossed with some sort of terrier,
but the breeder’s unsure if "jackapoo" or "foxapoo" is the more accurate descriptor.

I google the latter, and get “Did you mean: fox poo?” as a result, so put "jackapoo" on the microchip registration.

Now the website wants a dog name. So, we go for "Buzz". One syllable, simple, and with multi-generational appeal (Granny thinks Aldrin, kids think Lightyear).

FRIDAY

I feel very tentative about saying so, but last night went well.

Buzz is incredibly cute, the kids adore him, he needed taking out at midnight and 2am but then slept through until 6am without whining, and he’s very cute, and didn’t attack the cat, and only did one wee on the doormat, and did I mention he’s cute?

"She hands us a book, by Dr Ian Dunbar. 'This guy', she assures us, 'is Supernanny for dogs'"

Those beady eyes are straight out of Build-A-Bear!

I send a snap to my friend Tom—a dog fanatic. “WHAT?” he types back instantly (he typically takes all day to respond to texts; puppies are clearly the key to his heart). “Olly, prepare to fall in LOVE. Perhaps for the first time in your life!”

SATURDAY

"Love" feels like a stretch right now. Our "play" was evidently not "focused" enough to prevent Buzz biting through two of our cushions and three of my fingers.

Also, our three-year-old thinks it’s hilarious to run away, so Buzz keeps chasing him, wrestling him to the ground and slobbering all over his face.

I suspect this isn’t the best way to prepare Buzz for engaging with the general public when his vaccinations are done.

SUNDAY

The whole house smells of dog. I can even smell it in bed, but the dog has never been upstairs. I find this repellent, but friends, family, and people we barely know existed are "popping by" to meet him.

Dog-walkers strolling past our gate pause to swap grooming tips.

“It’s like having a baby, eh?” says my neighbour, Erik, brightly. “Yes, but it’s a baby you can neglect when it cries!” I respond cheerfully. He frowns.

MONDAY

Sam returns, with some kitchen scales. Turns out we have been slightly under-feeding Buzz. She demonstrates how to train him to sit by offering him this additional "kibble".

Though, she warns, that might mean some more poos…

TUESDAY

It’s 2am on the coldest day of the year and I’m on my hands and knees in the brambles. I reckon you’ve never really experienced a harsh mid-winter until you’re face down in the ice, trying to locate a tiny poop with a headtorch, while a puppy eats your slippers.

"Dr Ian Dunbar is Supernanny for dogs"

Then, we return inside, and for a moment, it’s just me and Buzz. Peace. I should put him back in his cage, and retire back to bed myself. But… I find I can’t resist a cuddle. Don’t tell the wife.

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