The kids are all howling for another dog

So far I’ve resisted because no dog could replace my beloved Rodney . . . but then again

It’s almost birthday season in this house again. But among the birthday celebrations – two of which are “notable” birthdays – a First Communion, a primary and a secondary school graduation and the Leaving Cert will all take place.

A myriad of milestones that deserve special recognition and are worthy of a special present – or so I’ve been reliably informed by my troops.

It’s not that they are particularly materialistic, but more that they have their eye on a desired prize. It appears to them that now is the perfect moment to convince mum, as she drowns in the tears of over-sentimentality, we should get a dog. “Carpe Diem” and the sending of links to dog rescue pages, while her defences are down.

It’s not that I don’t like dogs. In fact I loved one dog very much up until about 18 months ago, when he sadly passed away at the grand old age of 17. I loved him so much I’m not sure any dog will ever be able to take his place. And the kids loved him too, to the point that we still went up the Wicklow Mountains on his birthday last year, even though he was no longer with us, because it was his favourite place to go.


Our family photo frames, along with individual pictures of the kids, still contain his photo. He still crops up regularly in conversation and even a flash glimpse of Only Fools and Horses on the television is enough to start the older ones explaining to their younger siblings how our Rodney got his name. The part they don’t realise is that their dad vetoed Derek and Del Boy on account of how ludicrous he feared that might sound should he need to holler at his faithful hound on some occasion in public.

Rodney joined our family when he was just a few weeks old. A bundle of black and white fluff, he became our practice baby ahead of the imminent arrival of our first actual baby. He was an excitable pup with boundless energy, something we should have anticipated from a border collie/red setter cross. “Surely he’ll settle down,” I said frequently as he dug and chewed and ran and never ever tired.

“The pup phase can’t last forever,” I consoled myself as he swiped yet another item of clothing from the washing line and chewed every child’s toy the toddler had the misfortune to momentarily drop. He finally calmed down a little when he turned 16.

But for all his excitable exuberance and daily mischief which earned him, from me, the pet name of “that bloody dog”, he was the most gentle, patient dog with the children. So gentle that I had to constantly remind the kids that not all dogs were like Rodney, who didn’t seem to mind whether he was assigned the role of cowboy’s horse or sunbathing toddler’s pillow. He was just happy to be with them.

A lifetime of love

A lifetime of love, or seven lifetimes to be exact. He sniffed, in greeting, the toes of each newborn that arrived home – accepting his place further down the pecking order without quarrel.

And on the devastating occasions, where pregnancies didn’t go as they should, he sat quietly by my side, licking away tears that fell for the babies I never got to hold.

“Summer is a good time to get a dog,” my middle child remarked recently over breakfast. “Do you think we could get one then?” he continued with another attempt at persuasion, supported emphatically by his siblings.

“What about dog poo, who will clean up after him?” I replied, with what had become my usual line of objection.

Muted expressions confirmed selective deafness had once again afflicted several of them.

“You and dad,” answered the five year old, as if it was in any doubt.

“Actually have you seen the dog at the Montessori pick-up?” my husband asked. “He has a face just like Rodders.”

"No," I replied, suddenly sensing a wavering in my husband's resolve not to get another dog. I doubted the possibility. Rodney was rather distinctive looking – distinguished some might say, if they were a member of my immediate family. He had two different coloured eyes and worked the David Bowie look very well.

Later that day, I collected my youngest from Montessori. On the way to the car he stopped to chat to his little friend whose minder had a black dog with her. The dog’s eyes were both brown. His face was mature, kindly and strangely familiar.

Maybe summer is a good time to get another dog . . .