As cute videos of dads who never wanted dogs flood TikTok, Rachel Mainwaring shares her own experience of having to persuade a very stubborn husband that he really did need a dog in his life…but did it work?
Seven years ago, on a wet rainy day in Cardiff, I was in the grip of an all-consuming emotion that wouldn’t go away. Part rage, part longing, part frustration, I had a huge pang to be outside, walking through the hail and storm with a faithful dog by my side.
It was a completely stupid thought of course. My husband had reminded me time and time again that he just wasn’t a dog person. Never had been, never would be. They smell, he said. They poo, he said. They’re messy, he said. They jump on the sofas, he said. They eat slippers, he said.
I felt hopeless. Despite my desire for a dog, I wasn’t going to just go out and get one. I respected his feelings, even though I didn’t for a minute understand them. But no matter how many times I told myself my husband would NEVER entertain the idea, that sense of longing just wouldn’t go away, like an irritating itch that you’ve just got to scratch again and again. Sometimes his determined reticence would just make me feel plain sad. Other times, I just wanted to stick his head down the loo and flush it for all his stubbornness.
I’d always had dogs growing up, so I simply didn’t get it. Why would you not want a little four-legged pal in the family? The kids were older and less needy, desperate themselves for a fluffy friend and I just had so much love left to give. Perhaps there was a bit of broodiness thrown in as I was an almost 40-year-old whose child-rearing days were clearly over, but I was asking for a fur baby not a real one.
So, feeling determined and desperate, my daughter and I launched a mission, a charm offensive to convince the hubby that we didn’t just want a dog, we needed one. And while I oversaw the operation, my daughter proved to be a brilliant ally.
She made PowerPoint after PowerPoint, from ‘Why every family should have a dog’ to the ‘Best family dogs’ to ‘Why you won’t have to do anything if we get a dog because mum and I will do it all.’
She emailed him cute YouTube videos of man’s best friend. She persuaded her grandparents to talk about how dogs make wonderful pets.
Still nothing. No progress. While our need deepened, he dug his heels in further with absolutely no guilt whatsoever.
It’s time to change tack, I told her. The more we go on, the more he’s going to resist - so we took a break. Because, while I never really imagined or accepted that we wouldn’t one day have a dog, I didn’t want to become that boring, nagging, needy wife either.
Then my daughter started comprehensive school and within a few months, most of the girls in her friendship group got puppies. It was hideous. I decided I need to up the ante and made the decision to totally flip the situation. As she cried tears of frustration, I told him it was up to him to justify to her why we couldn’t have a dog. He had to be the one to sit there and explain while she sobbed.
I know, I know. It was emotional blackmail at its very best. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Gradually, though, it started to work. Bit by bit, I could see him finding it increasingly difficult to argue his case until one day, he simply looked her in the eyes, sighed and asked: “What colour shall we get then?” Six glorious, happy, golden words.
It came with terms, of course. He said he would not be picking up poo, the dog would not be allowed on the sofa and he would not be clearing up after it. He would tolerate one but the hard work was up to us.
Fast forward a month, and Bertie the cockapoo joined the family. And he is everything I dreamed a dog would be. More. Better. Blissful. It’s almost impossible for me to put into words how I feel about him such is his greatness.
And my husband? Let’s just say, he’d make the perfect subject for a TikTok video with his constant canine companion.
Bertie has his own spot on one of our sofas. He loves to sit on his dad’s lap for Teams meetings during lockdown. He loves sharing his Pringles, his hot toast with butter and licking baked bean juice off his fingers. He loves his play fights and the ‘Oh, you’ve wagged your tail for daddy, let’s get you a treat’ kind of the thing. And he loves nothing more than sleeping next to him. On our bed. All night.
I’d call that a win, wouldn’t you?
Heard the one about the family who all wanted a dog but Dad didn't?
(Yes, you can guess how that worked out. Read it here.)
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