Vicky Ewan: I'm beginning to understand why people love their dogs so much

If you are feeling down, walk to Abbey Sands, Preston Beach or Goodrington, and just stand or sit fo

My husband has many a tale about the loyal companionship dogs provided in his childhood. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

After a good few years without them, we have acquired a whole new set of safety features in our home.

For decades, it seemed, every room in the house was punctuated by the presence of precautionary paraphernalia to protect our steadily increasing brood from household hazards: socket covers safeguarded unsuspecting tiny fingers; the child lock features were engaged on the washing machine, supplemented out of necessity by a cap placed over the power switch to offset small hands bypassing that safety function and depressing the vital button mid-cycle; dangerous item were stowed out of harm's way.

Fast forward to the present: in recent days, a stairgate has appeared, fitted - with no little effort by my husband - on a recent Sunday afternoon.

There are absorbent training pads scattered across the floors of most rooms, alongside a cornucopia of teething rings and other brightly coloured toys.

An extra bed is situated alongside ours, a stuffed velvet monkey nestled snugly in its cosy interior.

And the reason? We have welcomed another little girl into our family: an adorable springador puppy.

For some time, we have toyed with the prospect of becoming dog owners.

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Dyed-in-the-wool cat people by self-admission up to this point, we hadn't been sure that we had the patience or the commitment to invite a dog into our home.

Our two cats, brothers from a triplet litter, have been the source of much amusement and entertainment over the past five years: affectionate and aloof by turns, they have been excellent partners in the careful dance of pet ownership.

We have nurtured a relationship very much on their terms, always grateful for any demonstration of fondness and constantly fascinated by their feline foibles.

Our phones are full of photos of them in various stages of sleep; we have a million pet names for them, each more creative and bizarre than the last; much of our familial conversation revolves around what might be going on in their minds - it's a full-time preoccupation.

My husband, the only one of us with any canine know-how, grew up with a variety of dogs.

He has relayed many a tale about the loyal companionship they provided in his childhood: the hours spent in the park with one or other of his siblings, throwing sticks and balls for their dog; the afternoons whiled away fishing, faithful pet at his side; the evenings spent at home, absent-mindedly rubbing the dog's tummy as he watched television, the dog kicking his hand should the stroking periodically peter out.

It sounded charming, the sort of idyll described in adventure books for boys.

Heeding his romantic reminiscing, I was convinced that a dog would figure in his life again once we were settled into a family rhythm but, unexpectedly, he was never keen.

We had cats from the word go, but didn't really entertain the idea of taking the ultimate step and becoming dog owners.

Of course, there are myriad differences between the two animals, as I am coming to realise.

Cats are independent, superbly indifferent creatures that generally require minimal effort and interaction, should that be their preference.

A bowl of food a couple of times a day, perhaps some shelter if the weather is foul, the odd spell on a warm lap - if the mood takes them.

They can be left alone for long periods of the day and will tolerate extended owner absence as long as there is a kindly hand to tend to their catering needs.

They have been known to stalk away in disdain should there be any over zealous attention, but in the next second can demonstrate magnificently fickle fondness as they purr and weave around the nearest shin.

Our puppy is a completely different kettle of fish.

She whimpers if she realises she has been alone for 1.7 seconds; she is anxious to know that there is someone close by at night; she thrives on our affection and praise and is always ecstatic when so much as a glance is thrown her way.

Nothing will ever undermine my love for my cats, but I am beginning to understand why people love their dogs so much; certainly, our ten week-old bundle of beautiful fun has opened our hearts - and that's somewhere we won't be installing safety gates.