Gilbert and the pugs
Nathan and I have always wanted a dog. From the moment we got together and then moved in together and then married, we have wanted to share our life with a furry companion.
A lot of things conspired to prevent the dream becoming reality. First we were renting and were unable to have a pet. Then we bought a place but it was in a unit complex and dogs weren’t allowed. Then we had kids and finally moved to a house with a yard but our working lives really prevented us from spending the time required to train a pet.
More recently we have had to deal with Gilbert’s pet phobias. He has always been upset by the sound of barking and in one of our previous houses he became too scared to go into our yard in case a cat wandered through unannounced. He was very, VERY against the idea of welcoming a pet into our home.
Last year after we settled into our new place and I accepted my redundancy, we finally arrived at a place in our lives where we were in the position to welcome a pet. Gilbert was distraught. He did NOT want a dog. They would be noisy and lurk under his feet and disrupt his wandering and jump on him and wee and poo everywhere.
He declared “no pet will be allowed in this house while I am living here.” He was adamant. We were equally determined that we would eventually have the pet we had been dreaming of for years. We had to start turning his arguments around so we could change his mind for our dream to become reality.
The first step came from a surprising source – ABC3. Occasionally they have little 5 minute filler programs and one of these featured a family who had pugs. The pugs played, snored, went riding on the back of a bike and were dressed up in all sorts of funny costumes.
Gilbert thought this segment was hilarious and told us all about it. We asked whether he would consider a pug as a pet and he said, maybe, in a few years time. This was the first time he had even voiced any sort of support for such a scheme. Nathan and I looked at each other and we hatched a plan.
Nathan knew a local pug breeder and found a video of their pugs on YouTube. Again Gilbert thought it was hilarious although he was still against having a pet “right now”. We suggested maybe we could get a pug later in the year instead. He then countered with “next year”. We came back with Christmas as the timeframe. He said maybe. The war was won.
We ended up getting the pugs earlier than Christmas as we didn’t have to wait on a litter after all – there were two girls already available to be homed. Gilbert was not keen on getting them early and became quite stressed about it but we concentrated on reminding him how funny they would be.
We went pet shopping and he selected a toy for each of them. He also tolerated us talking about them and contributed to the decision on a name. We tried to involve him and his sisters in all the preparations for the pugs – they needed to be involved and engaged so they were ready to welcome their arrival.
On the day Evie and Mandie arrived he stood back, uncertain and scared. They were certainly cute and funny but they did have a mind of their own and they were new. He awkwardly patted them and then went upstairs again, where they could not follow. That evening he asked us to take them back as he really didn’t like them after all. We talked about it and explained that wasn’t possible but reminded him he could stay in his room more if that would help.
He spent a lot more time in his room over the next couple of weeks, seeking sanctuary from the change in the household. He would say a quick hello as he came downstairs to go to school or outside to the trampoline but he was still not comfortable with their presence in his home. He still wanted them gone.
By week 3, he gradually started spending more time downstairs. He discovered that he could still watch DVDs or TV in the same room as them. Sure they jumped to greet him but they soon settled down and let him resume his normal wandering around. He worked out that they didn’t follow him all the time and that he could still do all of the activities he loved doing before.
The real turning point came a month after they arrived. He asked to hold Evie. This was the first time he had initiated any sort of contact other than a quick, reluctant pat. We sat him down and invited her to climb on him for a quick cuddle. He loved her softness and her puppyness. The love affair between them was born.
It took more time for him to be completely comfortable with them and to stop asking for them to be returned but he is now a very happy pug owner. He does say that he loves Evie more than Mandie but I think that’s because she gets up to way more mischief than her older sister and that tickles his fancy!
He LOVES it when Evie does something naughty (like going to the toilet inside) and will now pick them up and help open up their cage for us in the mornings. Depending on his mood he can still be annoyed by them and order them out of his way but by and large he loves them and has accepted them as members of our family.
It’s been lovely to watch this relationship develop and flourish. I never thought I would see Gilbert so happy with a pet but I’m pleased we went with our gut instinct and decided to challenge his resistance to having a dog. Otherwise we would not have these beautiful images as proof of his innate ability to love and care for his pugs.