I have always been a dog fan. I grew up with a dog until I was about 13 and was devastated when she had to be put to sleep.
Owning a dog was just never an option when I lived in London – I shared a flat with housemates and was out for most of the time, either at work or with church/social commitments. When Mr B and I got married in 2011, we moved to Fife for 15 months and we rented a place, and at the time, we weren’t sure about where we were going to be living after Mr B finished his last training placement. So until now, the time hasn’t been right for us to get a dog.
Now we have lived in Inverness for a year – I’ve been working full time at the University of the Highlands and Islands since December, but Mr B has an office at home so is based there for much of the working day . I also have the flexibility of being able to work at home quite easily. We have a massive garden and access to a Forestry Commission site at the back of that. So we have the physical space that a dog needs, as well as the means to keep the dog company most of the day.
We had been talking about getting a dog probably since the autumn. Ironically it was Mr B, who has never been a dog owner, who was the one who was trying to persuade me to get a dog – we joke now that I had commitment issues (slightly ironic since we got engaged within 6 months of dating!) but there was definitely an element there of fear that I would be responsible for the life of another living thing.
We kept an eye out on the SSPCA website for dogs that needed rehoming, and close to Inverness there is also an independent rehoming charity. However, we had quite early on decided that we would like to rehome an adult labrador – for the following reasons:
- adult dog – no puppy toilet training to contend with
- labradors are known for their loyalty and relaxed and happy temperament. That was a big thing for us – with Mr B being a Rev, we often have people coming into the house for meetings.
We were then told about Labrador Retriever Rescue Scotland, which is a charity based up in Caithness – on the North west coast of Scotland. After an initial vetting process just before Christmas, we were then told that we would be matched with a dog that needed rehoming, that suited our requirements (incidentally, we weren’t too specific, apart from the fact that we wouldn’t want a puppy). Thus happened in about mid-January, and in mid-February, we went to meet Bartie, who was living in Kennels in Falkirk with his previous owner, and brought him back to Inverness on the same day. During the ‘in-between’ time, we read up on what we would need to buy and got the basics, and researched pet insurance.
We were both really nervous in the first few days, as was Bartie. The first two nights were really stressful and we didn’t get much sleep. As soon as we brought him into the house, he marked his territory on the carpet – twice! The first night, we didn’t have a crate (a big cage) and so we left him in the lounge/dining room. The next morning we came down to what looked like a scene from Marley and Me – we had naively left things out on tables where he could reach – so a lot of paper had been chewed, and a cushion had been punctured. Understandably, he was still getting used to this new environment. Most nights since he has been in the crate, and with the exception of some howling (about 5 minutes worth after we leave him alone at night) he has been really settled in there. We keep a radio playing Classic FM next to him (cultured or what) as the rhythm of the music is apparently close to their own heartbeat, so has a calming effect. The vet also gave us a plug-in air freshener that releases pheremones that dogs recognise (fortunately humans can’t smell it) which also has the same effect. We’ve talked to people that recommend having the dog sleep in the bedroom but we think this would be an unnecessary step to take at this stage – it would have to be a last resort for us.
There have been 2 chewing incidents. One was on a day when Mr B had a meeting which took longer than he anticipated. Unfortunately for him, he also left his trainers in the same room – and lets just say that the trainers are now in the bin! The second was last week when we had left him out of the crate (to avoid the howling), and he chewed up a remote control. Both incidents were treated by the vet, but apart from the eaten objects being ejected in the usual way, he had no other side effects (vomiting, change in personality).
Having a dog is relatively inexpensive – the food he is used to is good for him, and relatively cheap – a 15kg bag lasts about 6 weeks. We feed him carrots or apple as a treat – no table scraps here! We bought a single duvet with a couple of duvet covers to rotate when they need washing – that’s his bed that we keep in the crate. We bought a couple of toys including a Kong Tennis ball (Kong make dog toys which are impossible for the dog to chew) which he loves to chase and to play with. We were recommended Petplan insurance which is about £30 a month, and also a vet health club scheme which is £15 a month. Obviously we have had the extra vet visits to pay for the medication/treatment of the chewing incidents. We are also going to get Bartie neutered next week – lets just say that he likes the ladies, so we don’t want to be responsible for any illegitimate pups roaming around Inverness. When we go on holiday we have some kind people that we can call on to look after him, as well as the option of kennels in the local area.
Apart from eating a trainer and remote control (!) – he really has settled so well with us. He’s such a gentle, handsome dog with a lovely character and likes to play with his ball, a well as sleeping a lot! He walks to heel, and comes back to us when exploring off the lead. We are intending to take him on training classes later in the year too, partly for us, and partly so he can still be used to other dogs – sometimes he is a wee bit wimpish or shy. We also just need to be careful that when we do have to go out without him, we make sure nothing can be chewed or destroyed within his reach, and that plenty of toys are kept for him to entertain himself with! It’s been an eventful month, but we love having Bartie. We’ve also been really grateful to be in contact with Carolyne (from Labrador Retriever Rescue Scotland) who has been on the end of the phone/email when we’ve had questions!