‘Five minutes with poodle puppy changed my life for the better’

It’s amazing how five minutes with an adorable dog can transform your life – and James Hadley can happily vouch for that.

At first he was reluctant to have a dog and only agreed to get one after much persuasion from his partner Mel.

“I just thought owning a dog would be too restrictive,” admits James. And even when the couple went to collect their new pet puppy Jasper, he was fretting: “I remember driving up the M1 to pick him up from the breeder, wondering how it would all pan out.”

But within moments of meeting miniature poodle Jasper for the first time, James’s heart melted.

“Five minutes into our journey back to London, he started whimpering – and that was it,” recalls the 59-year-old. “I just felt this imperative to look after him and protect him.

“We got home in the evening and took the pet carrier with Jasper inside into the back garden. We unzipped the carrier, and Jasper poked his nose out.

“He then proceeded to jump around our little bit of lawn in the sweetest way, and I knew almost at once that having a dog would not only be OK, but fun and rewarding too – this little fluffy character was just so preposterously adorable.”

James is happy to report that Jasper, now four, has changed his life in so many ways – cheering him up when he’s downhearted, bringing him out of his shell, and even helping him meet new people.

‘It’s great the way dogs get you talking with people you’ve never met before’ – Jasper’s owner James

“I can be a bit melancholy at times, but Jasper takes me out of myself. You know that without fail, when you come in the door he’s going to be overjoyed to see you, jumping up to say hello. That’s a lovely thing.”

But what James values most is how much of an icebreaker Jasper is. “He’s a great connector. It’s great the way dogs get you talking with people you’ve never met before.

“In a big city like London, where it’s so easy to stick within your own narrow circle of friends and work colleagues, he is a fantastic conversation starter.”

He says Jasper gives him what feels like unconditional love. But the affection goes both ways, with James and Mel, who live in Haringey, North London, so lovingly protective of their furry charge – like when James and Jasper went out on their first little trip.

“I took him for his first walk in the park and scooped him up in my arms when a bigger, boisterous dog freaked him out,” he remembers. “He looks to us entirely for protection, and I couldn’t have taken that responsibility more seriously."

Marketing executive Mel, 53, works in an office, but writer James works from home, so he spends the day with Jasper settled down next to him and his laptop.

“Having Jasper has totally changed my day,” explains James. “We’ll go for a walk in the park in the morning, which is great for blowing away the cobwebs. Then later, usually around 5.30pm, he’ll come over and nudge me for a second walk. The look on his face says: ‘Come on, I’m bored, let’s play!’”

Jasper’s ‘people skills’ and cheekiness are also clear to see: “He is very communicative – and can be fabulously naughty!” reveals James.

He adds: “I didn’t realise the quality of relationship you can have with a dog. We had cats when I was growing up – and I love cats. But really there’s no comparison. For me, having Jasper has been transformative.”

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