It started with a cat. Well, two cats actually. It was Summer 2014. I’d just moved into a new flat after coming out of a traumatic relationship and it wasn’t long after finding out I wasn’t able to have children. I was sad and incredibly depressed, but this new flat was the start of something exciting and I was ready for it. It was the first time I’d ever lived alone and I think I was on autopilot for most of that year, but I clearly remember my sister turning up at my front door with two black and white kittens in a basket. Something for me to love she said, to come home to, to mother. Jessie and Juno moved in that day and filled a void I didn’t think would ever heal.
My cats saved me- I had two little creatures to care for, to get me up in the morning, to snuggle up with every evening. For three happy years it was just me and them, then along came Polly. I hadn’t meant to get a dog- it was my friend who was looking for a puppy and I tagged along. As soon as I saw those tiny little scraps of fluff I was obsessed. I HAD to get a dog to complete my ‘family’. About six weeks later and two weeks after my friend had brought Luna home, I was driving back from work with a tiny little Cocker Spaniel puppy in one of my cat’s travel crates on the passenger seat. Two weeks before, Pollyanna had chosen me- this wiggly little red ball of fur, who looked like Disney's Lady, had plonked herself in my lap and that was that. Love at first plonk.
Polly is now three and you do not know how many times I’ve tried to write something about her. There have been 84,000 versions of this piece. I’m not sure why I’ve found it so difficult, but I think it might have something to do with how much she’s changed my life. The magnitude of taking care of a dog and just how much they come to mean to you is hard to put into words. When I got her I’d never had a dog- we didn’t have dogs growing up, although I used to beg my mum constantly for a Rough Collie like Enid Blyton’s Shadow the Sheepdog (my favourite book... I think I must have read it about 50 times). My mum could tell you some very embarrassing stories about me pretending to be a dog for years to convince her to get me my own… ahem... the point is, I had zero experience of owning a dog and was going purely on what my heart was telling me to do. I’m a rather impulsive person and I’ve definitely put more thought into buying a dress or pair of shoes than I did when I made the decision to get a dog. I mean, it wasn’t the most sensible thing to do and I don’t recommend just getting a dog on a whim, but it’s worked out for us and I know I made the right choice. I threw myself into the deep end and I’m so glad I did.
Life After Dog
I started to socialise more, and I made a whole new circle of friends. If I’d had children, I’d be friends with the mums at the school gates and baby groups etc. It’s just the same with being a dog-mama, my friends these days are mostly people with dogs! In fact I met one of my very best friends through work (which was nothing to do with dogs)- on my first day the manager, who has two Smooth Coated Fox Terriers, called across the room and said ‘Nicola, this is Lexie… she has a dog!’. We were firm friends from that moment on.
It’s no secret that I struggle with my mental health, but now I must go out everyday to make sure that she gets exercise and socialisation. I live in East Sussex and we have some magnificent wild places to walk- I’ll do a post on that another time, but for now I’ll just say that fresh air and nature are two natural mood-boosters and I’m so thankful to live where I do.
My days revolve around dog walking- who am I walking today? What are the dynamics of today’s group? Have I got my dog-walking bag and kit ready (yes, I have a kit, and this too warrants its own post later!)? Do I have water and treats? Towels for muddy days?
Polly eats better than I do. She’s raw-fed, and I think a lot about what she’s eating and keeping her in tip top condition. I do the same for the cats too. All three animals have supplements and extra goodies to keep them as healthy as can be. In fact, I was talking to my sister about his the other day and I got very emotional when I explained that the reason I worry so much about what the animals are eating is because I never want them to die because I never want to be without them. I want them to live their best, most healthy lives for as long as possible.
Life With Polly
Polly isn’t the easiest of dogs in some respects and I’ve had to learn a lot from the more knowledgeable people around me- she's reactive in some situations. She likes to do her own thing and woe betide the dog who tries to distract her from her task, or her ball, or tries to get between her and her Mama. Normally she wears a yellow ‘give me space’ collar and lead to let people know she needs a bit of room. The vet told me, in all seriousness, that it’s a common trait in red-haired spaniels. It’s known as ‘Red Cocker Rage’. Usually I tell people she’s an anti-social fiery red head. In all other ways she’s a dream- she’s ridiculously clever, never leaves my side, she’s fun to be around, soppy, loving, full of character, her tail never stops wagging and she vibrates with happiness. I love her absolutely.
Becoming a Dog Person
My family tell me I’ve become a ‘real dog person’ and I guess that’s true. For me, getting a dog was the equivalent of having another baby and I just threw myself into it. We’ve done all sorts of things together, from Agility, to Flyball, to Sniffer Dog Training, fun dog shows and discovering new places to explore. When someone asks me to do something these days my response is usually ‘so long as I can bring Polly’ or ‘is it dog friendly? No? Then I can’t come, I’m sorry’. I just don’t want to be without her. All three animals are my babies and my life is better because of them. Thank you girls, Mama loves you.
To follow Polly's adventures, must have accessories, Raw Food diary and her friends follow her on Instagram @pollyanna_and_friends