The Rise of the Lockdown Pups

Whilst we were in the lockdown, we had time on our hands. A lot of time in fact. We saw many spending more time cooking and baking (The cinnamon rolls challenge was one, and in fact, we ran out of flour in supermarkets!). There was even the news of a lady who hatched ducklings from her supermarket duck eggs.

Totoro at 6+ weeks old, black and white portrait

We also saw many people buying a pet for the lockdown, and the most popular being puppies. I think it began as the restrictions set in, we were only allowed to exercise once a day but if you have a dog, you can take your dog out for a walk within reasons.

His first few days as he discovers our home and his own reflection

We got our little pup just before the lockdown. He was 6 weeks old. My two boys have been asking for a puppy for quite a few years. Each time, we gave them alternatives such as soft toys, lego bricks and eventually fish. The boys have dogs at school and although I love dogs, my husband was not keen on pets. At least that was the feeling until I brought Totoro home.

Totoro at 6 weeks on house training

The boys and I have been plotting to get a dog since late November last year. We have been talking about dogs, and selling the idea of one to my husband. We even convinced our nanny it was a great idea, just in case if the boys weren’t doing their job of looking after the dog (which turned out to be the case half the time).

He loves laundry day!

10 things to consider when you are considering owning a dog:

  1. Lifestyle
  2. Time
  3. Breed Research
  4. Family suitability
  5. Cost and on-going lifelong costs (A dog is for life)
  6. Space
  7. Healthcare and Exercise
  8. Dog Poo (and house training)
  9. Training
  10. Companionship (Keeping your dog company)

Can you really give the dog a good home with love and happiness? I grew up having dogs and so I am very keen in getting a dog for my boys. I personally see many great qualities in having a dog. It teaches children love, kindness, loyalty, responsibility, companionship, growth, affection and joy. Growing up in Asia, we had a big compound. My father being an animal lover and of course a dog lover, had a sideline of raising Champion dogs. From my memory (which is failing most days), it started with a white Pomeranian Spitz mix breed. This was our own family pet. He was most beautiful and he was called Junie (born in June). Then, we added the pure breed Chihuahuas (two of them). They were surely yappy. My father had infinite patience and trained them well. Within a space of two weeks, my father added two Dobermans to his collection. The final push was the two Rottweiler puppies (this was way before all the negative post on the Rotties). They were big even as puppies. Yes, that was 7 dogs (all puppies) all in the house (well compound). The only ones allowed in the house were the Chihuahuas, except Junie of course.

My mother is a devoted Buddhist, we had a Four Face Buddha shrine in our front yard. My mother would make offerings of fresh fruits and flowers each day as well as burning incense. This must have been about a month into having 7 dogs. My mother witnessed a miracle. All the fruit offerings disappeared each day on the altar of the shrine, all four sides. Remember I said my mother is a devoted Buddhist and the Four Face Buddha is very sacred to her. Her initial thought was that there is some magical, spiritual miracle happening. Of course she was quickly proven wrong a few days later when my father saw what clever tricks the Dobermans and Rottweilers got up to. I must say when it comes to tricks, Dobermans are extremely intelligent. They grabbed the fruit offerings and hid them away to eat later whilst the Rotties stood guarding.

Appoximately 2-3 months later, my father sold the Chihuahuas and the Dobermans. He grew very fond of the Rottweilers and decided to keep them. Yes, that is one of the dangers in his side business, well, a hobby really. Rocky was my favourite (the male). He was very protective and very loyal. I spent a lot of time outside in the compound and grew really fond of the Rotties. At the time, I must have been about 9 years old and they were bigger than me. We never had any troubles with them although they do like to hide things away. Passers-by are frightened of them, then again, that’s what the Rotties are for. Our house had a big compound, breaking and entering was not uncommon. With the Rotties, we had zero break-ins although numerous attempts at poisoning them were thwarted.

“The dog ate my homework..” My youngest found an excuse for not doing his homework

So back to the Lockdown pups, I was no stranger to dogs and I was researching on the ‘best’ dog to get for us. We don’t have a garden but the mews is quite quiet and Hyde Park is a couple of minutes walk away. It came down to a Maltese, Toy Poodle, Shih Tzu, Pomeranian or Maltipoo; one in the toy dog category. The opportunity came when I was alerted of the availabilty of a Maltese. Pure breeds can give less health issues. Maltipoo, though very cute like a teddy bear, can be associated with a higher risk of joint problems. Maltese are also considered hypoallergenic. So, approximately a week before the lockdown begun, I carried home the latest addition to our family, Totoro the Maltese, to the surprise of my darling hubby.

The boys thought of the name even before we had the dog. They love Studio Ghibli animation cartoons and their favourite being Totoro, though I was more in the Land of Oz, for Toto. The boys were ecstatic when they saw their Totoro. They actually help to bath him and called Totoro their little baby brother (though I am not entirely sure I like the sound of that)! Needless to say, hubby grew very fond of Totoro within days.

Totoro out for his first walk upon completion of his immunisation

Although we sort of got a Lockdown Pup, it was a much thought after decision (despite the surprise to dear hubby, who came on board very quickly). It was a surprise for him, but we did seriously discuss the pros and cons of a little doggie for months if not years.

Maltese is famous for it’s long silky white coat of hair (to the ground) but you can be sure, that isn’t what Totoro would look like. He’s our family dog and it’s more about practicalities. I invested in a proper dog shearer and grooming set during the lockdown. Though it can be tricky, Totoro and I have come to a good understanding (he’s nodding now). He’s cosying up on my lap as I write.

On Mummy’s lap when she’s working
Love a cuddle with Mummy

What I love about Maltese? They are affectionate and very intelligent. We have many cuddles throughout the day. He’s almost house broken, he has a dedicated place (our balcony) for his occasional business though we much prefer if he does it outside on our walks. Totoro brings us all joy with his irresistible Maltese face; his big, dark eyes and black gumdrop nose, can conquer the most jaded sensibility. Maltese are also very adaptable and hardy. For a home in London, without a garden, he’s great at adapting. Our house has 4 floors and he’s now able to climb up and down stairs too, though he mainly stays on the second floor. He sleeps in the living room, in his crate, though I must admit when he was first brought home, he slept in my bed (on my expensive silk cotton sheets) for the first couple of nights (thankfully with no accidents on the bed).

Totoro’s big, dark eyes and black gumdrop nose

Getting a dog is easy but looking after one is not so. When considering a dog, don’t just go for a cute face and “Aw, he’s so cute..” as that cute phase can run out very quickly when you find yourself with a lot of added responsibilities like feeding, bathing, dog walking, cleaning up, picking up poo, teaching and training the dog. House training is not for the faint hearted. Think of all the expensive carpet or flooring, and having accidents on them.

Mummy made me some silly clothes

The teething phase, which Totoro is in is also tricky. It requires firm and assertive training to let him know what is okay to bite and what is not. Our dining chairs have taken a few good gnaw, so have the corners of the wooden flooring. Of course, initially during his teething phase, the boys did get a little alarmed and a few near misses. Teaching the boys to be firm yet confident is crucial. Totoro needs to understand his place in the family or he can be a bully with the boys. One way is to get them to feed him. We have a rule of making him wait ten seconds in front of his bowl before diving into his food. It is all still new to the boys, but I am pleased to see the nurturing side of both boys since Totoro joined our lives.

He loves sock!
Teething phase

When it comes to choosing a dog, it is essential to weigh up the type of dog, to your lifestyle, your housing situation (flat, house, garden), your family members (some dogs can be jealous of the arrival of newborns and some are not suited to small children). Think of the associated cost too; food, immunisation, chipping, accessories, training and where would the dog go when you are on holiday.

Research is key to getting a dog. Most importantly, it is a life and a sheer responsibility. Weigh up the pros and cons carefully before you decide on one, and never get a dog out of a whim. Do remember that a dog is for life, not just for the season (Christmas puppies are often abandoned in January) or for lockdown. As the lockdown eases, there are now many reported cases of abandoned lockdown puppies, as people return to work or some sort of normality. If you are considering a dog, (which there are many pros to as well as cons), do consider adopting and rescuing one too.

I had a rescued doggie (mix breed but Toy dog size) for about 5 years when I was a teenager. Lucky unfortunately wasn’t so lucky when he got hit by a car. Lucky used to wait for me at the bus stop each morning and afternoon when I was at school.

Having a dog is a privilege and a responsibility. Dogs can have a lifespan of above 10 years, not just one season. Weigh up before you commit. Have a good think before you woof!

Healthiest dog when he picked up Mummy’s Kefir
Totoro has grown, black and white portrait today at 18+ weeks old
Out on a short cycling trip in a pooch bag pack. He’s too excited when he’s in the basket.

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