Borrowing a dog is an ideal introduction to owning one – you can try various breeds, sizes and ages before azed at the number of people who buy a puppy without doing basic research and are surprised when it moults, chews, christens the rug, runs off and generally acts like a dog.
When people tell me excitedly that they are getting a puppy – just like those fresh-faced, wide-eyed new parents-to-be – I look at them with envy and pity. Like children, dogs are capable of bringing tremendous pleasure, followed by the kind of misery that makes you want to change your name by deed poll and disappear.
We look after one, very lovable, slightly daft miniature labradoodle (see, told you) every Wednesday. Ded after the jazz musician Dily.
My children love seeing him every week. Watching them play together and then curl up on the sofa afterwards, exhausted but contented, brings a smile to my face. I also love getting my doggy-fix – taking him on walks and having sneaky cuddles when the children let me get a look in.
This dynamic works – crucial in matching a dog with a borrower
Roughly 70% of borrowers used to own a dog, while some are thinking about getting one. Photograph: y Photograph: y
Our relationship with Django is now well established and we are looking forward to having him for two weeks in the summer. In turn, his family visit this page is looking forward to a holiday in France – minus Django but knowing that he will be loved and looked after.
Borrowing a dog hasn’t all been plain sailing. Django is only eight months old and about the intellectual equivalent of our three-year-old, so managing both together can be trying at times. Our son has also learned the hard way that some dogs bite. We’d borrowed a dog, before Django, who was sweet and well behaved. She trotted along by my side on walks, never pulled on the lead and played ball with the kids for hours. I felt this was what a family dog was all about. However, she didn’t like being hugged too closely. I had warned our son several times that she might bite – indeed the dog had warned him by growling. But some boys just won’t be told and he got a nip on the nose as a consequence.
Photograph: Dave King/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley Photograph: Dave King/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley
Blood was shed and tears – mainly mine when I had to return the dog to her owner. As for our son, he remains irrepressibly “affectionate” with every dog he meets.
What we have learned, however, is that it is a good idea to borrow a dog that lives in a similar environment to your own. Dily with three children and is used to noise and over-appreciative hugs. “It’s finding a dog that suits your personality – and the owner getting to know and trust you, too,” says Rosenlund. You wouldn’t hand children over to a babysitter you don’t know – in the same way, you need to build bonds first.”
The perfect dog does not exist. But at least when you borrow one you get to hand it back if things aren’t working out. I still long for a dog of my own – and my daughter and I often chat about what we’ll call our eventual new family member. Now, when the subject of getting a dog comes up, before my husband can raise an eyebrow, I’m the first to say: “When he’s four we can talk about it.”