1 Mar 2017

The Joy Project: Steven Oates

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From THE JOY PROJECT, 12:40 pm on 1 March 2017

Steven Oates, 41, organiser of ‘Woof: The Auckland Pride Dog Show’ lives with his mum and two dogs, Ruby, a Ridgeback-cross, and Murphy, a Golden Retriever, in Mt Roskill, Auckland.

Join us through March as a diverse group of New Zealanders share what makes them happy.

My dogs mean the world to me. I guess you could say they are my children.

I can’t imagine life without a dog now. When I’m older as long as I can afford food and a house and I’ve got a dog, everything will be okay.

I wasn’t really looking for a dog. It was weird. Mum and I were just going for a Sunday drive and we passed by the pet shop and thought, we’ll just have a look. The dogs were nice but they were really expensive. Then we decided to drive to the SPCA. There were all these puppies and they all looked cute. But I could feel out of the corner of my eye - the dogs are in these glass cases - I just felt this dog looking at me, this tiny puppy. I said, ‘can we meet that one?’ She came straight away and sat on my lap and just stayed there.

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Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

I was living with both my mum and dad at the time. Mum said, ‘you can have the dog but only if your father agrees’. So we went home and Dad is like ‘no, we are not having a dog.’ So I went into my room and didn’t come out for three days. You know, very mature. After three days Dad said, ‘if you want the dog that bloody much you can have the dog’. And within the first 24 hours Dad was the most besotted. That first Christmas he said, ‘is Ruby allowed to come to Christmas? Because if Ruby isn’t allowed to come then I’m not coming either.’

After my dad died Mum wanted to have her own dog. We’d been looking around at all these small lap dogs. Then a friend of ours who works at the SPCA rang up one day out of the blue and said ‘there’s a dog here and you’ve got to come and see it now’. An 18-month old Golden Retriever. I was like ‘this dog is not going to be able to sit on your lap’. It was love at first sight between Mum and Murphy. He was so charming. He’s a very attractive dog, people just gravitate towards him.

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Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Ruby is the smarter one. Ruby is very knowing, but you’ve got to earn her affection. She’s aloof. She’s considered. Murphy would go to anyone, he’s a real bimbo.

What I love about dogs is that they are not interested in bullshit. They are so non-judgmental and unconditional and that’s the greatest thing that they teach us. Sometimes if I’m having a rough patch I think: would my dog care about this? And if the answer is no, then who cares? They give you a sense of perspective on what’s important.

As told to Felicity Monk.

* If you want to share what makes you leap for joy, join the conversation on Facebook.

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