Why puppy love is just what Kate needs before the baby comes along
It's not quite what the nation has been clamouring for. But the sight of Kate Middleton on the cover of Hello gazing adoringly into the big brown eyes of the new addition to her family - cocker spaniel Lupo - might just be awe-inspiring enough to placate the demand for a human heir for a few months at least.
Yes, the puppy could be a public-quelling move. But it is possible that, keen for a baby (as the tabloids repeatedly assure us she is) but with a schedule and partly absent husband which make this year an infeasible time to get one, Kate has been advised that a puppy can provide similar emotional benefits.
That's certainly the conclusion of a number of psychologists the press have drafted in to analyse the motivation for the latest Windsor. If so, I wonder who gave Kate such advice. Judging by what I've seen in the last year, it's likely to have been a mum who knows how it feels to finally accept, once and for all, that you're not having any more babies.
Three friends of mine have bought puppies in the last six months. None of them had ever mentioned the idea of getting a dog while their youngest children were still toddlers. Now that I come to think of it, in all three cases, the subject only came up after their youngest started primary school last summer.
Losing your 'last' child to the big bad world of school, knowing the slow separation which such a step brings, is a tough time for many mums. The idea that you will never again curl up with a little one cradled into your belly, their breath synchronised with yours, is hard to take.
You begin to dwell on what feels like a cruelly brief time in your life when your knee-high disciple instinctively grabbed your hand the minute you opened the front door and spent most of the ensuing walk gazing up at you adoringly, the idea of questioning your great wisdom and ability to solve all problems of the universe never occurring. The days when a hug from you cured everything from a bad dream or a sore leg to a disappointing Kinder egg.
Yes, there may one day be grandchildren, but that's a helluva wait. And truthfully, it's not the same. They will never be 'yours' in the same way.
Having spent many hours miserably musing over such thoughts, I fully understand the attraction of buying a dog at this point in your life.
As one of my friends said of her new terrier, she's just like my baby, except she'll never grow out of her unconditional love for me, she'll always jump up and down with excitement when I come home, and she'll never be embarrassed when I cuddle her in public.
This friend spends most night watching TV with her dog's head happily resting on her thigh, her two growing daughters playing in their room upstairs. My husband thinks she's crazy but I understand her new-found content- ment. So much so I'm beginning to seriously consider launching the torturous process of persuading him - not an animal lover - to agree to a hairy new addition to our family in the near future.
And for every person (almost always a man oddly) who's informed me that emotional substitutes aren't healthy, I say, if there's a way to fill a hole, why not grab a spade? So enjoy your puppy, Kate - for you, the best has yet to come.