As I write this, I look at my living room window which is smeared with cloudy nose marks from Sherlock gazing longingly outside and the thick black paw print in the middle of my freshly-hoovered carpet and think, even with the mess, the endless dirt and having to heave a 32kg beast off any poor visitor who dares to approach our door - home doesn't feel quite right without a certain canine presence.
Sometimes my dog looks at me with such love and adoration, I'm certain that I haven't done anything in my entire life to warrant such idolisation... Sometimes I only pay for one carrier bag instead of three at the self-service check-out - I'm not worthy of levels of such unadulterated affection.
Sherlock has been a little pillar of chaotic joy throughout pregnancy. Granted, he's unknowingly caused his doting, hormonal owner to erupt into floods of tears sometimes over just how soft his ears are (low point) or by walking away at the wrong moment, but more often than not, with his natural smell of popcorn and coffee combined with Malteser-brown eyes... he's a walking endorphin-booster.
Not only does he bring a laugh with his comical ways when things get stressful, but he's the one who, after the craze of a newborn baby dies down and my partner goes back to work, family and friends go back to their routines, will still be there helping me through the learning curve. He can't change nappies, he can't heat up a bottle, but he's been here long before the baby and I'll need his companionship more than ever.
In the new year, I made a big lifestyle change. For various reasons, I decided to quit my job and work freelance from home. Whilst a definite weight lifted from my chest with that choice and it was familiar ground from my job back in 2012, I was under no illusions that it wasn't going to be damn quiet.
The first day, Sam came home from work and I blurted out every single thought I'd had that day since 7am. As I'd suspected, the unborn hadn't been able to provide the same levels of chit-chat that you'll find in an office environment.
Enter the dogs.
Last year I worked on the PR for DogBuddy, the UK's leading online dog-sitting platform. Never had I loved my job more... if there's a French Bulldog in attendance at a review meeting, you know life is good.
So, when I made the decision to join the millennial movement of remote working, I signed up to become a DogBuddy dog-sitter. I'd spent enough time on the publicity side in the latter half of last year, and I figured now was as good a time as any to actually try out the service for myself.
Since then, it's been paws galore in our household. We've had last minute Jack Russells, Norfolk Terriers in bow ties, Whippets, Westies and even the odd puppy or two.
The website is easy to use, safe and totally secure for payments.
Whilst now and again, Sam does raise his eyebrows slightly at the energy levels of our house-guests or the number of wet noses I've signed up to look after in one day (we've got six on Valentine's Day... who said romance was dead?), having dogs running around makes us happy.
Dogs have a calming presence; even the nuttiest of puppies will eventually settle down next to your legs and breathe a wave of relaxation through you. Albeit, that tranquillity ebbs rather violently when you look around and see the trail of destruction that's been left behind, but for those initial fifteen seconds, it's pretty lovely.
If we leave Sherlock home alone for a little while with a new bone, he won't touch it until we're back. He'll run into the kitchen to fetch it before slumping over your feet and chewing with such unadulterated rapture that he's saved especially for when his family is back and he can relax... I've known my partner since I was 14 and there's still no way that I'd wait for him before opening a bottle of Rioja after a hard day. Dogs love unconditionally on a totally different level.
I hope that the happy energy of our furry guests and the positive atmosphere they bring manages to reach the baby through osmosis, introducing puppy love before he's even born. We've yet to prepare Sherlock for the new arrival but if his warm reception to any new friend who comes through the door is anything to go by, they're going to get along just fine.
And if you're in need of dog care in your area or like me, you work from home and enjoy a few extra paws around the place, you can register on DogBuddy.com here: https://uk.dogbuddy.com/CVHPW