• Darren Roberts


I’m starting to resemble that cartoon character Tom from the famous 1940’s Tom and Jerry cartoons, where Tom the cat, broken from endless nights stalking Jerry, has resigned to using matchsticks in an attempt to keep his eyes open; he is deprived of sleep and exhausted from the futile attempts trying to catch Jerry. But I’m not chasing anything to make me feel like Tom….I am crate training a puppy. A beautiful black and tanned miniature dachshund called Margot, who might be the cutest thing you’ve ever seen but is the devil in disguise and has, by my own admission, captured my heart completely. Margot isn’t stupid for a pup barely 9 weeks old, she demonstrates the kind of cunning found in a much older dog, seasoned with talent beyond her years. I am absolutely dumbfounded at her vast array of skills at such young age. It’s quite remarkable how this small puppy has managed to ‘work over’ two mature (I use that term loosely) adults in the space of a week. She knows the score and how to play the game, as if she has been programmed from the womb. This is not going to be easy by a long chalk and my puppy-induced insomnia I fear, has only just begun. I’m 5 days into my swim and I’m already a thousand miles away from dry land, swimming against a tide and surrounded by sharks - but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Margot has melted my heart and both Nic and I are happy to be parents to this little bundle of love – even though she is a manipulative little bastard.

2 years ago, my heart was broken. I was dad to an 8-year-old miniature schnauzer called Betsy. She died suddenly in unfortunate circumstances and very young. Her timing was impeccable – she died pretty much the same day as my radiotherapy had finished – bloody awful. We’d been through so much together. A sad divorce and a hugely regrettable relationship (which didn’t end well) and my cancer diagnosis. I’d asked so much of Betsy and she’d stuck by me - so when she decided to move on she left my heart shattered. I thought that was it. The pain of losing a pet was something I’d never experienced before and an emotion I wasn’t keen to revisit in a hurry. But then something shifted.

Nic and I had been toying with the idea of finding a lead singer to join the band. Nic has always been a cat lover – I’m not so keen. Don’t get me wrong cats are cool, but they always look extremely pissed off or are just about to commit murder. It’s most definitely a trust issue – and I don’t trust cats! I have friends who have kitties and their appendages are always scratched and sore. This is not something I’m terribly keen to pursue – the mere thought of becoming a human claw sharper fills me with dread and fear. After some deliberation and a lot of swooning over sausage dog pics on the net it was decided the new addition the household and the lead singer of our group was to be a miniature dachshund. Her name would be Margot – chosen by Nic. A big name for a small dog. She initially wanted to call her Stella – and I’m glad to say that idea fell at the first hurdle. How could I name our new baby, the epitome of innocence in its purest form, after the lager which got me into so much trouble as a youngster.

It’s been a journey of discovery this far. How can something so small poo so much and where does all the wee come from? When does the biting stop and the million dollar question; when does she go into her bloody crate and actually sleep? It’s a war of attrition, a game of chess from which there can only be one winner. And I’m damn sure it’s not going to be me who folds first.

I have visions of being the guy that you see sitting outside a café sipping a latte, a French cigarette smouldering in the ashtray (I don’t smoke but I’m liking the romantic picture I’m painting). My guy is basking in the sunshine reading the Sunday paper, pausing only to notice the busying high street of his local town. By his feet his dog, laying loyally across his Birkenstocks unphased by people walking past and the sounds of the traffic. This is my goal – however distant it is. I should have learnt from my experience with Betsy. An absolute angel at home but a crazed lunatic outside on the lead. I was later to learn that my socialising skills or lack of them were the culprit for her appalling manners. It’s true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and the window of good socialising behaviours is only open for a small length of time when they are puppies. So my vain attempts at trying to train/ beg a mature Betsy to behave were futile – I had more chance of getting a bus to the moon. Her behaviour ship had sailed and with it my vision of being ‘the guy with the latte’. So, in Margot I have a second chance, a chance to right the wrongs of the past. I have to dig deep and do it for her, it’s all for her. I want her life to be perfect and in return ours will be more rounded and peaceful.

The unfortunate truth is I am knackered – a week into the program and I’m already bushed. Nic is doing the lion’s share of the nights which upsets me, but she’s protecting me – I forget I have cancer and I need to sleep. I hate that my body is letting me down and I can’t do the things that I used to do. Raising a puppy is exhausting but in Nic I have found the perfect ‘puppy mummy’, she is an amazing human and has the patience of a saint. She has bought fully into this journey 100 percent and is completely besotted with Margot, it really is quite beautiful to watch. I am doing my bit and I’m already seeing how this is playing out in real time. I’m the soft touch, the cuddle daddy and the place for Margot to get her tickles. Nic is the Cesar Milan, the builder of walls and discipline. This relationship works and is the best for our little pooch so I’m sure that she’ll grow up a happy sausage dog being the best that she can be, fitting into our world and becoming the companion we dream of. If successful training is driven by love, then we have nothing to worry about.

We love you Margot – now please go to fucking sleep.

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