My 5-year-old daughter is obsessed with dogs.
For the past six months it has been all she has talked about.
Whenever we are out and about she stops and pats just about every dog she sees. During a recent South Island holiday we went for a long walk along a river and she approached the owners of about 20 dogs. Having learnt not to simply run up and start patting, the modus operandi was quite simple - approach cautiously, ask politely, start patting and then make small talk by asking the dog's name. Most dogs she encountered were child-friendly, but occasionally an owner would advise her that their dog was "a bit grumpy". She could not quite grasp the concept, but would move on to the next one.
The fascination was well entrenched by then - the need to get a puppy of her own had reached fever pitch well before Christmas. We had held off getting a puppy for many years, but the time seemed right.
To cut a long story short - we now have a new family member. She is a 10-week-old Border Collie who we bought in Blenheim just before Christmas. Yet another female in my house, taking the female/male ratio up to 5:1. Being a dog lover from way back and quite partial to female company, I don't care - I am just happy to have a dog.
When I phoned about the puppy, the breeder said one of the litter was quite hyper-active and into everything. I knew the type well. It seemed like the perfect match.
And it was love at first sight. My youngest daughter and the dog are constant companions. My two other daughters - also the dog's owners - are quite content to let their little sister take the lead. The little girl has taken her ownership responsibilities very seriously and it seems to have given her (at this early stage) a calmness and contentment.The puppy has responded in kind and, in keeping with the breed, has proved to be highly intelligent and responsive. Obviously, being essentially a working dog, an exercise regime is being worked out.
But before then, puppy classes are on the agenda.
I am not sure who needs them more - the dog or the child.