x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Home or away, mothers rule

When it come to choosing between a long-dreamt of puppy and and firm maternal prejudice, there is no choice.

Mr T and I have always yearned for a puppy of our own, a dog to keep us company at home, to take on walks, and to force us into a more active lifestyle. The only problem is that I'm afraid of my mother. She is against pets that can scurry around and rub against your legs, or, horror of horrors, stick out a tongue and lick you. If it's not a bird in a cage, a fish in a tank or a turtle in a box, then it has no place in the home.

Part of the reason is that she is afraid of them, which I can understand. I regard all cats with a wariness that stems from a past encounter with a new feline mother with well-sharpened claws. And there are many people out there with a fear of dogs. The other part of the reason is the dirt factor. I would not like to be the dog who would dare to shed any hair or fur or whatever it is that makes up a dog's coat in my mother's house; I can only begin to imagine the vigorous cleaning that would ensue. A cat that might ignore its litter box? Heaven forbid.

Back when I had a list of all the requirements that had to be met in a guy for me to consider marrying him, number 37 said clearly: "Must love dogs, and have no aversion to owning one, maybe, someday." I mistakenly thought that being married and having my own place would afford me a certain degree of freedom. "Mum," I said, "Mr T and I are going to get a dog!" "I swear," she replied, and one should always take my mother seriously when she says that, "I will never set foot in a home of yours if there is a dog present. I swear it."

I tried to explain that our plan to get a dog would act as a test run for when we have children. If we could manage to love a dog without ever wanting to return it, if we could feed and train it and be meticulous about providing it with daily exercise, then really, how hard could it be to deal with a kid? But she was adamant. And if the choice was between a beautiful golden retriever and my mother, then there was no choice at all. I resigned myself to never owning a dog.

Which is why I was speechless at the last apartment Mr T and I inspected. My husband had asked an unexpected question: "Does this building allow pets? Dogs, specifically?" Were we now singing a different tune? I reminded him that we could never get a dog, because I was afraid of my mother. "We won't tell her," he said. "We'll have someone dog-sit whenever she comes over." I know my mother better than Mr T does - that solution was just not going to fly.

I tried to cajole him: it would not be fair to a dog to be cooped up in an apartment. I would much prefer to wait until we had a home with a garden. I couldn't very well tell him that secretly, I was backing out, could I? After all, owning a dog was on that original list of requirements. Mr T might not take too kindly to realising how easily I can change my mind.