After six months of my two boys researching dog breeds, pestering for a dog, researching dog behaviours, pleading for a dog, researching dog tricks, pestering and pleading for a dog, I finally took them to Rotherham Rescue Centre to look at a few. My intention was purely to show them how big the labradors/irish wolfhounds/alsations were and to demonstrate how hard they would be to walk and look after. I had every intention of getting a dog of some description over the next few weeks, but something a little more manageable than the ones they'd seen bounding along the beaches during our recent holiday in Wales.
That was Monday.
We entered a Bedlam for dogs. Dogs of every size and shape barked and snarled, whimpered and whined as we were shown around the kennels. I can't imagine how the volunteers can bear the sadness in those animals' eyes. They are amazing people who tirelessly show up to feed them, walk them, play with them and retrain some of the most traumatised week after week.
Some were so frightened of humans after their early experiences, we couldn't go near them as they expected us to hurt them and snarled, their bodies rigid. But some just jumped up to lick the bars and have their tummies tickled by the volunteers they knew and trusted.
There were three old dogs, mongrels I think they were, who I could have taken home then and there. Poor things. But many of them are so used to the routine of regular walks and meal times that they are settled there. It seems strange, but a few would find it difficult to leave the kindness of their carers now.
The boys were undeterred by the noise and the stories .They just couldn't choose between them.
"The dog will choose us, Mum," Max reminded me as we walked round again.
A little further on, two little scruffy white mongrels cowered in the corner of a huge cage. They were struggling with this environment after being separated from their owner only a few days before. After a little chat through the bars, my boys asked to go in to the cage to give them a cuddle.
"Okay," I said, "but just for a minute."
As they sat down to stroke them, one jumped on Max's knee and sat down, while the other curled up on Harry's knee and lay her head on his arm.
"Which one would you want?" the volunteer asked.
The million dollar question. Before I could answer, Harry was on to it.
"They're only little, Mum," Harry whispered. "They'd be just like having one dog."
With dog eyes and boy eyes pleading upwards, I was powerless.
A few hours later, that same day, Bella and Jasper were ours. They came with quite the collection of dog beds, blankets, toys and bowls - all from a doting owner who just couldn't take care of them any more.
While our two cats are taking a little adjustment, our rabbit seems unphased by her new friends. These two little pooches are quickly becoming a part of the family.
That first night, they cried a little but at 2.30am they settled. I left them alone after checking twice and that seemed to do the trick.
The second night they slept through and, fingers crossed, they seem to be used to us now.
We have negotiated a corner of the settee where they curl up together on a white wool blanket and would quite happily sit there in betweeen games with the boys and their friends.
We are smitten. There are many aspects to owning dogs that I'm still adjusting to myself - I've set up a lunchtime dog walker for the days I'm working and I'm having to rethink a few days out we had planned to now accommodate them - but I do know we are very lucky that these two little pups chose us.