This post is in conjunction with Petplan but all thoughts are my own.
I grew up with dogs in the family. Ready and waiting to greet us whenever we got home. There, joining in with our games in the garden during the summer. Lying by our feet as we watched a movie in the evenings. Their presence was a huge part of my upbringing. Memories enhanced by their antics; their bushy tails wagging with excitement whenever we were around, their noses sniffing out the leftovers after dinner, their warmth on a cold day when you needed a cuddle.
When I think back on my childhood, it is often the dogs that I think of. Storm, a big black fluffy German shepherd that was more like a bear than a dog but that had a heart of gold. From saving my grandad's life during an attempted mugging whilst out on a walk, to repeatedly running off with the shuttlecock as we tried to play badminton in the garden during the summer, I have endless stories about Storm; a dog that was a guard dog when necessary but more than anything a member of the family.
And then there was Gerry, our next German shepherd who had the most expressive face I’ve ever seen on a dog, complete with eyebrows that he would raise independently, leaving us all howling with laughter whenever he did it. With a character like no other, Gerry brought us many a laugh and made himself part of the family, just as Storm had before him.
And that’s the thing with dogs, isn’t it? They have such a way of working themselves into the very fabric of the family. They don’t just exist alongside you, but live with you, incorporating themselves into every strand of your daily life.
I’m not the only one who feels this way either, Petplan Pet Insurance has recently launched its Pet Census 2018, exploring the attitudes of the UK’s pet-owners and the most popular dog breeds through time. In fact, the survey by the dog insurance provider highlighted that 41% of owners have referred to their pet as their best friend, while 50% of owners have made at least one change to their work routine to suit their pets. Guilty as charged!
Unfortunately, we no longer have a family dog of our own. And despite having other pets, which we love dutifully, there's a certain energy that only dogs can bring to the home. Fortunately, however, I’ve taken to getting my dog fix from the newest addition to the stables that I keep Beano at.
Marley, a yellow labrador that could rival the Marley from the book and film, arrived at the stables last year and he has been causing chaos ever since.
Unlike most rescue pups, Marley has a love for life that is truly infectious. Far from being withdrawn or nervous of life, that crazy labrador treats even the smallest of activities as a momentous one that should be tackled with as much energy as possible. It's, at times, exhausting but there's no doubt that his overexcitement for life is definitely something to be admired, especially from a dog that didn’t get off to the best start in life.
Dropped off in kennels one day and abandoned by his family, Marley was picked up by Yappy Ever After and shortly after, made his way to us. Since then, we’ve used him as an excuse to explore more of Milton Keynes; taking him on walks around Willen Lake, on a dog walk through Salcey Forest and even to Emberton Country Park. A task that he has happily agreed to undertake. Constantly heading off with the same enthusiasm that he does everything with, making it easy to want to take him along on our trips.
But even when we aren't hopping into the car to head somewhere new, Marley is still the happiest dog I've ever come across. Forever content with his favourite toy, the tennis ball, there's never a dull moment around that pup. Take your eye off him for one second and you can guarantee he will have climbed into, and be attempting to swim in, the water trough or he will be running off with his tongue hanging outside his mouth, making him look dopey-er than ever and making it even more impossible to ever be angry with him. And wherever he goes you can be sure there will be a trail of stolen food, muddy pawprints and mess like you’ve never seen it before behind him.
A year on and he is still just as crazy as he was when he arrived on day one and he's far from any other dog I've ever come across, but he has definitely filled that dog-shaped hole in my life.