So, this is an idea that I’ve had for a while but honestly wasn’t ready to write. As my millennials peers start to either get either fur babies and human babies or both, I’ve had a few conversations about dog ownership with people, trying to make them understand the reality vs the cute snapshot they get on someones instagram.

TW: Anecdotes involving the loss of a pet

We just lost our elderly lab in December and it got me thinking, so here are the top 5 things you need to be able to promise them that you’ll be able to give as their human.

After a brief google search, I found this stat:

“An estimated 2.7 million animals enter UK animal shelters each year. Of these, 1.2 million are cats, 664,000 are dogs…”

on a site called PetKeen

So there’s a couple reasons why I’m so passionate about this, which is why I wanted to make a list.

1. You will have no personality, you are now a ‘dog person’

Your camera roll? Now just dogs. Your every conversation with your partner/ family? Now just dogs. Your expendable income? Now just for the dog. Your Instagram and tiktok feeds? Now just dogs.

You have to be prepared to except your fate. You are now a dog person.

(this starts light hearted but gets heavy quickly.)

2. Be prepared to do the work

You must be prepared to make the commitment to train your dog properly and you must be prepared to deal with the consequences if you don’t. If you get a puppy, you gotta be ready to do the work, they have to learn pretty much everything about the world from you. They must be exercised properly, they must be socialised properly and above all, you have to train them.

You don’t get to ‘return’ them or ‘rehome’ them because their behaviour is too difficult. This is what you signed up for. You agreed to be responsible. That’s it.

I understand there are nuances, circumstances can change but if you don’t think you can weather the storm with them, don’t get a dog.

Sam and me- 2017

3. You are their entire world. You have to promise to act like it.

Your home is the centre of their universe. You and your family are their entire heart. You are their pack. This is a fucking beautiful gift and if you are going to take it for granted, you don’t deserve a dog.

If you’re going to leave them home alone day and night. If you aren’t prepared to be selfless, if you aren’t prepared to have your daily routine revolve around them, if you think it’ll be seamless and like nothing is different, you might want to have a little think.

Bruno 2021

4. Understand that a dog is for life. No. Seriously.

Don’t get a dog without thinking about how long you might have to be responsible for them. Are you prepared to do this for 15 years? Maybe even 20 with certain breeds. When you think about a dog do you only picture that cute, young phase? If you can’t promise that you will do the old, creaky, frail, can’t see- can’t walk- can’t hear- can’t eat any of that easy to make dog food- can’t pee or poo unassisted phase. Then don’t get dog.

We lost another lab 4 years ago and he weighed nearly 40kg but I spent the last few months of his life helping him get from room to room, helping him go to the toilet. I carried him later down the line. If you don’t think you’re prepared to do that (because there is no guarantee your puppy will be healthy always, regardless of age)

Sam- 2018

5. Love them as unconditionally as they love you

You must love them even if they are a nightmare who rips up your house. You must love them even if they turn out to be a little peculiar. You must love them even if they aren’t capable of giving you the kind of love you see on social media (not every dog is a cuddler).

You must love them enough to be prepared to love them when they are sick, or old, when they cost you hundreds or thousands in vet bills. If you’re not prepared to spend that kind of money, you should not get a dog. Sorry.

You must be capable of loving them enough to decide when they’ve done their best but it’s time for them to go get some peace. You must be able to love them enough to extend that grace to this living, breathing being whose spent their life with you.

You must love them enough to hold them when they take their last breath. Don’t ask them to do that part alone.

You must be able to go through the heartbreak of losing them because they won’t be around as long as you. This is a reality you will have to face, whether it is in 3 years or 20.

All of this is to say that having a dog, the kind of unconditional, beautiful love and joy they can give you is an absolute gift and I just want to make sure you treat it as such. My heart broke each time we had to say goodbye to the two dogs we lost over the last 5 years. But I would do it over and over.

Left to right- Bella, Bruno, Maddy- 2020

This made me cry so much to write this, so you better like it. More bookish nonsense coming your way next.