If you are considering owning a dog and mulling over the right dog breed for you, take a walk across Hampstead Heath to the café at Kenwood House. Apparently it’s the Sunday morning jaunt of choice for every dog owner in North London. Recently we counted 126 canines in the 20 minutes it took to get there.
Having spoken to (‘accosted’ says my husband) various dog-walkers and asked them about their hounds, the resulting consensus is that we should have a Cockerpoo. The popular Cocker Spaniel/Poodle cross is meant to shed less and therefore nix the potential for allergic reactions. Our eldest son has asthma and is supposed to be allergic to dogs. But when sleeping at his grandparents’ house, their gentle old Greyhound occasionally comes to share his bed with no ill effects.
Being sensibly cautious, a non-shedding breed is probably a good idea, but because my heart leans towards a sleek, clever Lurcher, I’m not naturally wild about a dizzy-looking Cockerpoo. Apparently, if you are concerned about allergies, a pedigree dog that allows you to meet the parents also allows you to assess the allergy potential. So, no trip to Battersea Dogs Home for us.
We browse dog encyclopedias over breakfast, lunch and dinner. Despite our youngest son campaigning for a Chihuahua (it’s the size of the cat that he really has his heart set on) and our eldest for a Pyrenean Mountain Dog (all that drool, all that fur and how many poo bags?), we settle on a Miniature Schnauzer: bright, hardy, non-shedding, odourless (really?), can cope with little or lots of exercise and good with kids. And then there’s the clincher: a pair of the most ridiculously expressive, large, twitchy eyebrows. Even the child with the cat fixation approves.
We come across My Name is Moose, a book by Martin Usborne: the story of a photographer and his Mini Schnauzer in groovy East London, it is sweet, funny and incredibly winning. Having found another tome that is clearly the Schnauzer bible on Amazon, I Google the author and after a 45 minute telephone conversation with him about the merits (so many) and downsides (but a few) of the breed I make an appointment to go and see his breeder partner and have 14 of the little darlings jump all over us. Ventolin at the ready.