There has been an ongoing debate in my 15 year relationship (yep just shows that gibbons, swans and French angelfish aren't the only creatures capable of monogamy). This issue transcends those lesser issues that two people looking to create a family wrestle with. It is one beyond private vs public school, what religion to introduce your children to, what football team they will support, the political ideals you’ll pass on or if you’ll allow them to watch ‘Frozen’.
I am talking about what dog breed you will decide upon for the family pet.
A cat was never an option, because we all know that those who are in happy, successful, reproducing relationships don't own cats. That is the domain of weird cat women and those strange cat men, who for some fortunate reason for the rest of us, never seem to hook up.
For years this debate had raged in our relationship. We started out at opposite ends of the spectrum, wanting to continue with the dogs of our childhood. For me it was the Jack Russell, a small dog with the confidence of a gorilla. For her it was an Airedale, a Terrier like the Jack Russell but more refined, gentlemanly and big.
Over the years we found ourselves coming to a compromise and meeting somewhere in-between. A medium sized dog of good personality. Something Labrador-ish. We’d considered the designer crossbreeds like a Spanador and a Labradoodle (why not Labraniel or Poorador?).
We then thought about things like a GSP, Giant Schnauzer or German Shepard. Basically anything that I could train using words like ‘Nein’ and ‘Achtung’.
Finally we thought we would try and find a rescue dog, something that we could help get off the streets and give a second chance, just like that casting director did for me some 10 years ago when he gave me a role of Frederic the Pirate Apprentice in the Sydney production of Pirates of Penzance.
We looked online at various sites and shelters and came to the following conclusion; the only dogs in shelters are annoying, yappy white balls of fluff, or deadly weapons posing as dogs that look like they’ve been bred in the kennels of Hell itself to be purchased by suburban bogans to accessorise their neck tattoos. Neither make for great family pets.
Then one night it happened. We came across a litter of Airedale puppies. They were cute enough to get under my guard, and before I knew it I was Googling the breed profile. Soon boxes were being checked quicker than a denim stocktake at ‘Just Jeans’. Good size. Check. Family friendly. Check. Hypoallergenic. Check. WiFi and USB port. Check. Active but happy to also hang. Check. Guard dog capacity. Check.
Within the space of that hour long late-night conversation, a 15 year long conflict came to an end. I was converted.
I was now keen for Airedale.
The talk then turned from not ‘what’ but ‘when’. That Friday night we sent a few emails enquiring about the status of the litter of pups. It turned out all the boys were still available, which is what we wanted. That then meant that our Saturday was to be spent driving half way up the state into the country to get a puppy.
As we were driving we were discussing potential names for the puppy with our 4 year old. When suggestions such as “Fangblade” , “Stinger” and “Ultron” were put forward, it was ruled that no Dragon, Ninja or Evil Robot names were allowed.
We arrived at the farm to be greeted by two tracksuit panted country folk. Dog breeders are either of two extremes; pompous and well-to-do or grassroots and informal. Both will always live on large parcels of land and take being a ‘dog-person’ to an almost literal level.
We were taken to the outdoor enclosure where the puppies roamed free range like big, hairy chickens. We jumped into the enclosure and were soon in the middle of a puppy mosh pit. Like all good mosh pits we all nearly lost our shoes, but this had more to do with the team of Airedales chewing at our laces.
We played around with the pups and tried to get a read on their personalities. The green collared one with a fetish for shoelaces was funny but had more energy than a can of RedBull and not something a house with two crazy kids needed. We wanted something that was more chilled.
I noticed a puppy that wasn’t hanging back, but more so hanging around. He was bigger than the others and wearing a black collar. A big guy who likes wearing black and doing his own thing? This was a dog after my own heart. It was almost like he was choosing us, rather that us choosing him.
‘Hiro’ (named after a character in Big Hero 6) is settling in well at our house. The biggest problem we now face is keeping the cuteness levels to a manageable level with a 4 year old, 1 year old and puppy all in the same space. It’s a good problem to have.