What a difference a year makes

It’s our anniversary!

It’s exactly a year since my wonderful, furry, best friend came into my life, and a lot has changed since then.

Just over a year ago the Brexit vote in the referendum turned my world upside down, devastating my friends and I, and all our plans for our future careers and lives. I was heartbroken, but decided that it was the catalyst I needed to change my life and spend more time outdoors and doing the things I loved and had always wanted to do. And top of the list of things I’d always wanted was a dog of my own.

So on a bit of an impulse (albeit 35 years in the making) I started hunting online for a a little spaniel. I decided I couldn’t cope with a puppy, so looked for a slightly older dog, and that’s when I found Archie. The lovely Katie gave up a Sunday to drive me around the M25 (earning her title of the ‘fairy dog mother’), first meeting, and rejecting a lovely little cavalier called Marley. He was a lovely boy, and I couldn’t explain why, but I just knew he wasn’t the dog for me. As we were giving up and heading home Mum (who’d be searching frantically online) called and told me about Archie, a beautiful black, 6 month old cocker boy. I was sure he would be gone already, but thanks to all the road closures caused by the Ride London cycle race the first family who wanted to see him couldn’t make it across London. Katie and I abandoned our lunch and raced to Croydon, where my little man was waiting for me. I fell in love immediately, even though he was super anxious and barked his head off. He was gorgeous. This little Brexit pup was going to be mine.

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Who wouldn’t fall in love with that face?

The next few weeks were a huge rollercoaster of emotions. I now contend that everyone who gets their first dog is convinced that it was a huge mistake and that they’ve ruined their lives, until they quickly adapt to their new family member. But I didn’t know at the time that this was a pretty universal thought process, and felt completely overwhelmed by the responsibility of sudden pet-parenthood.

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“I don’t think you know what you’re doing”. He was definitely right.

Looking back Archie was clearly traumatised by his change in circumstances, but at the time I thought he was a hyperactive nightmare. He was so nervous he wouldn’t eat his food unless I stood right beside his dish the whole time; he peed all over my shoe when someone tried to pet him on our first dog walk; and I couldn’t go to the bathroom alone for a moment, without him crying and barking outside the door. When I finally emerged from my flat, slightly-dog mad, three days later to pop to the shops he howled and peed all over the floor. I was more than slightly frazzled, so thank goodness I had lovely friends who helped to dog sit, and Mum who came down for a week to reassure and comfort us both.

Things slowly got better, and we moved to Brussels where we threw ourselves into a new world of dog ownership, sorting out a pet passport and transport, attending puppy school, finding a wonderful dog walker, and a lovely dog-walking park. There were traumatic times too: Archie got kennel cough, which honestly made him sound as though he was dying of TB; and one awful afternoon ran away from his dog walker and got lost in the woods.

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Happy times with friends in Brussels

Ultimately, though, despite all my great friends in Belgium, the job was making me miserable and I knew I had to leave. I was overjoyed to be offered a loan to the Scottish Government in Edinburgh, even though it meant yet more change for poor Archie, who spent a month with my parents in Aberdeenshire while I sorted out our new life, before we moved to the capital.Β No wonder he’s been so stressed.

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Leaving Brussels
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Celebrating Christmas with the family

Six months on and we’re finally feeling settled in Edinburgh. After a bit of a rocky start (peeing on the sofa, and pooping in the flat) Archie understands his new routine and is so so much happier than he’s ever been. He loves his doggie day care, which keeps him entertained and occupied all day long, and has almost totally gotten over his separation anxiety – now when he sees me putting on non-dog-walking clothes he automatically heads to his favourite spot under my bed, and nonchalantly goes to sleep with no fuss at all. That alone makes such a huge difference to our lives, as I’m no longer trapped in the house and can once again enjoying popping out for a run or a coffee. He’s still nervous, but so much better around new people and dogs.

Getting the car has been amazing. I love that he leaps excitedly straight into his crate in the boot; he’s already learnt that getting in the car means we’re heading off for a fun adventure. I feel like I’m finally living the new life that I’d dreamed of. I *love* being in Edinburgh, which is such a great city packed full of little independent cafes and shops, but so close to hills and beaches.

I can’t imagine my life without my lovely little boy. He truly is the best friend a single girl could have. He’s so happy to see me every morning when I wake up, and every night when I get home from work. And the feeling’s mutual. There’s nothing better than a lovely cuddle on the sofa after a hard day, and I know I’ll never be just me again – now I’m part of a wonderful two-some.

I haven’t bought him an anniversary present, I haven’t (yet) gone totally dog mad. But we did celebrate this weekend, with a lovely hill walk in the Pentlands on Saturday (not proper mountains, according to my 4 year old niece, but high enough for Archie’s first hill experience) and today running the best race I’ve ever entered in my life, a 5k race with dogs and their owners called the Dog Jog.

He loved the run, so we’ll definitely be doing more together.

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Enjoying the freedom that four wheels give us; and starting to live our best life
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Showing off his first running medal

I’ve learned so much in our first year together. To rely on my family and friends for help and support; to be more patient; more relaxed about the state of my flat (there are always dog toys all over the floor, no matter how many times I tidy them up); how to love and care for a dependent little creature; and that there’s no such thing as the perfect dog. Although somedays Archie comes pretty close πŸ™‚

Here’s to many, many more happy years together.

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