Today marks a year since our dog, Rosie, entered our lives.
Actually, today marks a year and one day since our dog, Rosie, entered our lives.
Today actually marks a year since I went to the BBC over in Manchester for an interview - which I faffed up. I blamed the day before, the actual day Rosie came into our lives, for my failure.
I was on garden leave and had taken the kids to school. Lovely day. As I came out of the snicket onto our road my wife was talking to our next door neighbour, with a black dog. Next door, their daughter has a black labrador, who a year back was still quite young and also lively. Here was the next door neightbour with a black dog, an excited black dog.
This dog jumped up at me. I hate it when dogs jump at me. “HA HA!” I laughed trying to put a positive spin on it. “Look at this dog! It thinks it belongs to me! It’s just like your dog!”
Turns out it wasn’t our neighbour’s dog. It was a dog that had been found tied to the church fence just up from our street. We called the dog warden and I spent some time together for a couple of hours while we waited. The dog did that dog thing where it leant against me, and put its head on my lap, and did a lot of helpless dog eyes.
The warden eventually arrived, he used a chip scanner, we had a chat about the databases they use to identify and track dogs. We found out she was called Rosie and there was a contact phone number - which was dead.
To cut a long story short, we kept the dog for a month instead of letting her go off to the kennels. After that month the dog’s owners didn’t claim her. And I (as I think it was mainly my decision) decided we should keep her, look after her, aspire to “give her a good home”.
And despite that disruption on that very first day when I ended up starting my final day revision for that BBC-job-I-really-wanted at 8pm and ended up going to bed at 3am for just a couple of hours kip and then flunking as the tiredness, the pressure, the expectancy after waiting years for this chance combined was too much and the adrenaline just didn’t make up for tha– Ah, it wasn’t the dog’s fault I bummed out. It was my err, not the disruption of the dog entering our lives just then.
The dog did disrupt my prep, and the dog has continued to be a disruption, and in good ways.
The dog’s routine, the dog’s need for routine (routine means going out three times a day, going out means minimising dog’s bounciness), has had a positive effect.
I love walking and I do love exercise. I have kept trying for the past few years to get a bit more exercise into my week, but I’m too much of a slave to my work/desk. I’m the sort of person that needs a push, the sort of person gamification of physical activity should (and does) target. And having a dog is that catalyst.
Most mornings I take it for a walk, usually on a nearly-4km route down to the canal (sometimes tracked using Runkeeper). Already before work I am clocking up exercise, getting some fresh in, and a chance for a think-walk at the start of the day. Clear my lungs, stretch my legs, get a few things straight and even out of my head. Sure getting up at six can be a bit suck-ass, but means I have to go to bed early-ish the night before, not after half ten - again, a win for someone who regularly stayed up past midnight, sometimes past one.
If I work from home the dog’s routine forces me to take her out at lunch - and forces me to take a break then. I am awful for sitting down at the start of the day and then only getting up for refreshment trips. And again, time up about, time clearing my head - and a chance to laugh at the dog playing.
Late afternoon, it’s the same. If I am working out of the house I get to take her to a park for half an hour. Again, flexing the leg muscles, getting some light and air, but also a good chance to give my mind the chance to take a breather, to catch up.
You’ll be gathering that our dog has been GREAT for my mind and well-being. And it’s a shame it’s taken a dog to kick me out of my work-slave habits.
I hate gossip and gossiping, but I love people watching. The dog’s fantastic for that as well. The characters you meet.
The morning walk: The woman who works for the RSPCA. The guy down on the field with the golf club, who whacks balls for his dog to chase. The mum who leaves the house for her dog walk on the Rec so her kids get ready. And very rarely do I have to explain who I am or what I do. We just wish each other a “Good morning!” and have a brief natter briefly about some little life thing.
The dog has even provided with me with teh inspiration and the excuse to experiment with some tech.
“Runkeeper tells me I travel 3.8km, but the dog goes over there, over there, all over. Where does the dog go? How further than me does it run?
So I got an old Android phone to create a MVP dog GPS tracker system.
And I’ve had immense fun doing that, something I’d presume people thought I’d do as my job but don’t because… my jobs haven’t give me the chance to do that. Making that dog tracker, learning from it, improving it (“Oh. The dog likes to jump into the canal, so it needs to be waterfproof.”), has introduced me to playing with more physical tech, gathering data, testing in a ‘real environment’, and I’ve talked with some pretty clever folk off the back of it.
The dog has also made me think of things from another species’ point of view. While I practice a user-centred approach to design (which involves understanding the habits of people) that has always been about just that: people. Even when I worked on Pets at Home stuff (years back), that was just basically retail for humans. Rosie has made me think about empathising with other beings, that aren’t as predictable and challenges your idea of assumptions - which sharpens your questioning and researching.
Now, as I type this from my garage-converted-into-a-mini-office the dog is asleep on the first chair my wife and I bought for our previous home (which the dog has ‘claimed’).
When it’s just me and the dog in the house, that’s where she tends to go, curled up, and sometimes breathing deeply, even snoring. Occasionally she is asleep and starts wimpering in her sleep, moving her legs. Part of me is thinking “If only I could see her dreams” and “When will we understand dogs’ langauge?”, and other animals’ languages for that matter. Which is exciting!
The dog’s been a disruption, but she’s been a positive disruption. The dog has been a stimulus for me in a number of ways I couldn’t have predicted. Even if she does snore, which I would previously have said was the most human of traits.