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No empty nest, but a pooch in a pouch

Published on MMO 25 July 2023

I should have known better.

That’s evident in some of my friends’ reactions: “Whhhat? You have a puppy...?” Followed quickly by a reassuring, “Oh, he’s so cute!” And then there’s my mother who reminded me that I had spent years taking a shower with a toddler clinging to the glass panels, and now, “You have a dog doing exactly the same!”

It’s true of course and I am so near the finishing line: three kids have graduated from school in the past three years, with just my last son, Lucky Luc, to pull through the gruelling final school year. After that, I’ll be a footloose and fancy free Empty-Nester! Yeehah!

What am I thinking? This caramel coloured ball of curly fur is going to change everything. Correction, it already has.

His name is Doddy, a Cavapoo that started life in April at a time when Luc was contemplating his own life — one without his big brother. Jake, who fills both the house and neighbourhood with noise — whether hammering and drilling in his side-passage-cum-workshop by day or enjoying his rowdy garden fireside gatherings by night — will be off to Loughborough University come September, leaving Luc in need of a friend.

Another feline was out of the question, no puss could replace Zeta, our 21-year-old rescue cat who travelled the globe with us — including a four-year stint in Kuala Lumpur — and sadly left us for the Great Cattery in the Sky last spring.

So, when my friend in the UK announced the impending arrival of her Cavapoo litter of five pups. It seemed like perfect timing... naturally.

Doddy was earmarked for us because he was the busiest, the first one up to play and the last one to bed. My friend thought he’d fit right in. He has cute white paws and patches on his face and chest, just like Zeta, famed for her white socks! And name? Well, he was due on the birthday of another close friend whose surname is “Balldoddy”. Doddy also happens to like balls. Cheesy, but it does have a certain circularity.

I must be honest though: he’s hard work. No more lie-ins, 6am is poop and pee time. Followed by an hour of enthusiastic tail wagging, face licking, manic jumping and paw-dancing — his front legs lifted high up just like a proud dressage horse. Meals five times a day, and exhausted sleep slots of an equivalent number. He is like a baby, but one that drops sausage-like bombs on the bedroom carpet, pinches socks and can out-run his keepers!

What really amazes me is Doddy’s neverending capacity to love everyone he meets, and shower them with affection.

He’ll lick, paw and play with complete strangers. In the quest for friendship, he once chased an ewe five times his size up a hill, and befriended surfers while on a beach walk, balancing nonchalantly on their board to impress. I wish I had just one cup of his pup confidence.

Doddy’s smart too: with a slight cock of his head he’ll size you up, and before you know it he’s somehow worked out what you need and supplies it in lashings. He’s currently working on grumpy Grandpa, sitting on his toes to encourage him to go walkies with him, and get some much needed exercise. Then there are long beach jogs with Beth, and quiet evening snoozes on Granny’s lap in front of the TV.

In fact, Cavapoos are known for their intelligence. They are, as the name suggests, a mix of Charles Cavalier Spaniel and Poodle. Looking at his curls and curious face, he’s more poodle which is fitting given he’ll soon be returning to his French roots, our home in France. What’s slightly troubling me is the fact that a Caniche (the French word for poodle) is a breed of water dog originally used by hunters to retrieve game from water.

So, how will he react to our four hens and two free-roaming guinea pigs when he arrives in a fortnight? Yikes. I guess we will soon find out.

Before we left Wales, I caught Granny crocheting him a pink and purple “blankie”, which Doddy now sleeps with at night in his cot and trails around with by day, clasped in his teeth. The gift of a crocheted blanket is a tradition she’s maintained with each new grandchild. So, I guess Doddy is now formally part of our family.

As I type this column back in Paris, Doddy is staying with Granny to wait out the obligatory three weeks post-rabies vaccine before he journeys across the channel. She sends us daily Doddy-news — playdates with ageing bulldogs and walks in the park on rainy days. Funnily enough, Granny and Grandpa seem to be receiving a lot more drop-in guests of late. And I realise that I am missing him terribly...

Lucky Luc has got his wish and there will be no empty nest syndrome here after September’s goodbyes, just a playful pooch with plenty of paw-action. Doddy has quietly become the glue that binds our family together, at a time when we are so busy moving apart.


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