Nova’s story begins in 1912, outside a beautiful Yorkshire country estate…
Well… technically, it all began when my husband and I spotted the stunning golden Labrador that trotted placidly along at the heel of Lord Crawley, in the first episode of the BBC period drama, Downton Abbey.
‘That dog is stunning,’ my husband cooed. I agreed. There’s something majestic about a Labrador, always present at his master’s side, patiently waiting to do his bidding. After all, we trust Labradors to lead the blind, guide the deaf and assist the disabled… they certainly are a breed worthy of appreciation!
We toyed with the idea of adding a Labrador to our family for a couple of years, always getting as far as finding ‘the perfect litter’, before promptly reminding ourselves that we had two small children, a much-beloved dog already in residence, and severe residual levels of sleep-deprivation we still needed to overcome.
That is until we took it one step further, and visited one of those perfect litters. My husband held a 2-week old, hamster-sized Nova in the palm of his hand, and from that moment on, she was ours. So we paid our deposit, and promptly spent the whole drive home excitedly listing all the toys, food, treats, accessories and equipment we’d need to buy over the coming weeks, in preparation for the day we could return to bring her home. Perhaps, with hindsight, we should have spent that time reflecting on how her father knocked us off our feet when we went outside to meet him… or how her mother cleared a 3-foot gate to greet us when we arrived. Maybe we should have questioned the distinct lack of Downton-famed majesty present in her immediate genepool… but alas – we did not!
Fast-forward two years, and pretty much every item we discussed during that romanticised drive home (and at least 20 more) got eaten/defaced/savaged to the death by our fizzy new addition, who was displaying a disappointingly distinct lack of 19th Century poise. Instead she dug up the garden, chewed a 3-foot hole clean through the fence, digested one sofa, two dog beds, at least 30 rubber gloves, and broke down all previously harmonious neighbourly relations within a half-mile radius.
But there was no way I could give up on her. Despite her energy and her insanity, she did so desperately want to please… so we began teaching her agility. She thrived. I started to teach her tricks. All of a sudden, her blinding intelligence – previously hard to imagine, when she so frequently had half a rubber glove emerging from her rear end, and a perplexed look on her face - came to the forefront. Tricks that I was told would take weeks of practise, she was nailing in a day. When she got her game-face on, she turned into a truly incredibly dog. Here was my Downton Dog!
Since I began my journey with Listen Dog, Nova and I have been ironing out the kinks, one by one. Her separation anxiety is a thing of the past; her crate is now in the loft since she no longer exhibits any destructive behaviours in the home. As she gets older, her focus and ability to learn are improving by the day. She has brought home rosettes, and is currently bulldozing her way through a Trick Dog certification. Yes, she is still full of pizazz, whatever that is. Yes the sight of another dog, the sound of the doorbell or the appearance of her lead does send her into a state of sheer excitement-induced apoplexy, but hey. She’s a Labrador (refer to a toddler high on every e-number, artificial colouring, and sugary soft drink under the sun, trapped in canine form). Her very breed was brought into existence to endure a solid working day, with an unrivalled stamina only evident in the true working breeds. Of course she’s buzzing. But she’s also soft. When my children are sick, she sleeps beside them. Her favourite things are tummy rubs, open fires, hosepipes and trampolines. Our family would not be complete without her – eccentricities and all!
And this is the place where you can keep track of what she’s up to now, what we’re currently working on in between clients, and what our plans for the future are. I’m proud of Nova’s progress, and if her story can inspire just one frustrated owner not to give up on an unruly canine, then it’s worth every single rubber glove sacrificed.