So where do we start. For those of you who own one or several dogs, you'll relate to the fact that each and every one of them is wonderful and unique in equal measure.
But what about the days, weeks, months and years leading up to the time that you eventually accept a dog into your lives. Was it a quick decision or were you still thinking about the inevitable sacrifices in the days before you brought that adorable bundle of fluff and cuteness home?
I thought I'd share some of my thoughts, reservations and concerns in an effort to give people some insight into how people feel about this period of thought and deliberation.
The views expressed are really from a man's perspective and I think both men and women will relate, understand, sympathise and occasionally raise their bushy or perfectly trimmed eyebrows at some of the comments here. So here goes...
From the guy's perspective - thought processes before we got a dog
To be honest it took me a bit of persuading before I would even agree to accept a dog into our lives.
My wife on the other hand is a very different story all together. She has always adored animals and on the surface she appeared to find it almost impossible to think about any of the negative aspects of dog ownership.
For her, it seemed like a "let's get a dog and worry about the rest later" attitude was something she would stick to. In reality though, she is a stickler for research and planning, so I thought that any concerns or wrinkles would have to be well and truly ironed out a long time before we finally took the plunge.
So why did I take longer to convince?
Well, the bizarre thing is that I have a risk taking nature and my decisions, whether in business or on a personal level have sometimes been speculative in their execution.
Of course, when you go through life guessing (and often getting it wrong) you do become a little more cautious over time, especially if something is going to take you out of your daily routine and comfort zone.
So for me, there was the big nagging question about how dog ownership would affect us as a married couple. Would it change what and how we do things to the point where we'd regret getting a dog.
As far as I was concerned, it was all about those little inconveniences. Walking into a department store is not always that easy when you have a dog. Then there's the rather frustrating ritual of asking if a cafe, eatery, pub or indeed any indoor social establishment will allow dogs.
There was also the question of whether a dog would mess with the life we had already built as just two people. How would a dog fit into that?
If I was going to agree I also wanted it to be a male dog. I somehow thought a female would be a bit too cuddly and well... feminine. I wanted a dog that would be strong in character and stature and I was not convinced that a bitch would be that. After all, the daily play and rough and tumble routine would be a highlight for me and I thought a male dog would stand up to that a little better.
As far as breed goes there were a few contenders and of course some dogs are higher priced than others. The breeds we looked at were at the higher end and I really did question whether it was all worth it.
Personally, I didn't want a toy breed or a very small dog. It needed to be of a size that would take a few knocks along the way and I certainly didn't want to look out of place when I walked it. I am 6 ft 6 inches tall so I would not feel comfortable walking a tiny dog down the street. Well, that's what I told myself anyway.
I would also want it to be as much my dog as my wife's and something told me that a male would probably be slightly more in tune with me as an alpha male character and leader. All of these rather selfish and slightly insecure thoughts went through my head without questioning their origin or the associated psychological value or meaning.
When we got a dog - the first 8 years
I remember the first year well. There were accidents, smells and messes to clear up. A few near misses involving benches, head hitting and running (not necessarily in that order) and a few confrontational issues with other dogs.
The second year saw my wife's confidence and ability grow when it came to agility lessons and training. She would take our dog round, through and over an agility course in impressive fashion and they would both love every second of it! This physical stimulation helped our dog a lot and to him is was all fun play.
The obedience training paid off too. The local village hall had a collection of many different characters and that was just the owners! These training sessions would teach him how to react and interact with other dogs and their owners and he would pass every class and every test with flying colours. We were very proud of him.
Our boy is now 8 years of age and we love him more than ever. Dog's grow in character as they get older and their inherent personalities shine a little brighter each year. He is sensitive, intelligent and more in tune with my wife's feelings and actions than he could ever be with mine. This is down to her perseverance, commitment and attitude. If there is one regret it is actually in my inability to put as much work and effort in as she did. If there is one thing all owners must try to do, it is to share the responsibility of training, discipline, love and communication if at all possible.
So after all this, the burning question is 'was it all worth it' - has owning a dog messed up how we lived our lives and have the last eight years restricted us in doing the things we really wanted to do. Are there really any regrets?
As far as getting our boy is concerned there are absolutely no regrets at all. He has been a wonderful bright light in our lives so far and long may it continue to shine for a long time yet. Dog's do not hold grudges. They live in the moment and those moments are very precious to them and us. They accept themselves with no envious thoughts. They do not wish for a more toned body or pretty face. They enjoy the journey of each day and offer unconditional love. If we are part of that journey the love remains and grows stronger.
We got our second dog when our first was 6 years old. She (yes she) is just as wonderful, unique and crazy as he is. Although she is not as sensitive, she does have a submissive nature.
However, my theory about females being more fragile went out of the window very quickly. She is a tough, robust girl (although much smaller than our boy) with a protective, yet friendly nature.
My early training with her did help us to bond that bit more, even though my wife spends a lot more time with both dogs during the day. I am very glad I spent more time with her in the early days, especially when it came to obedience training and enforcing subtle methods of discipline.
Our two dogs are the best of friends and love each other to bits. We are a family and our lives have been enriched by accepting dogs into it. There are absolutely no regrets and I would not have it any other way.