By KATE HUNTER
I don’t love my dog as I should.
Right now he’s at a boarding kennel – he’s been there 10 days because we’re landscaping the yard and all our fences are down.
It’s a nice kennel in a lovely ruralish part of Brisbane, but I only paid for basic accommodation.
For an extra $35 dollars a day I could have upgraded Tiger to an executive suite with couch, tv and air conditioning. But he has none of those things at home so he figured he wouldn’t miss them as much as I’d miss the money – landscaping is expensive.
Tiger will be home in three days. The kids will be happy, and I’ll be happy because they are. But I can’t say I’ve missed him.
Before you call the RSPCA on me, I’ll just say that Tiger isn’t abused or neglected. He’s fed, walked, taken to the vet when he’s sick. He sleeps on the deck but during the day he’s in and out of the house – just like the rest us. He’s loved (mostly by our 9 year old) just not by me.
My ambivalence towards Tiger is unexpected and mysterious and I wrote about it here a while ago. The response was greater than to anything I’ve ever written before. People feel very strongly about my lack of strong feelings for my dog.
Tiger was a much-wanted family pet, as much by me as the kids. Our previous dog, Jonah, died of oldness six years ago. There was a decent mourning period. Then a year and a half ago, I deemed the time right. I began research. Did not want a dog too big or too small. Prefer non-shedding. Nothing with ‘oodle’ as a suffix (this from Jim). Friendly, good with kids, cute. Enter the Lagotto – Italian truffle digger. Bigger than a spaniel, smaller than a Labrador. Perfect. And wouldn’t you know it? There was a breeder not too far from us – two puppies still available, ready for new homes at Christmas. We did our research and spoke to a vet (didn’t want an over-bred freak with bung eyes and dodgy hips).
Everybody said, – ‘Great family dog, go for it.’
So Tiger came home with us on Christmas Eve, aged 12 weeks; a white and orange mop of loveliness.
And I waited to feel the love, but it didn’t happen. I walked him and fed him and brushed him. I took him to obedience training and let him nap in my study. Nothing. He doesn’t jump the fence, eat the laundry or bark at leaves. He’s affectionate and gentle. As dogs go, he ticks all the boxes. I’m sure there are many reasons my affection falls short of love, and they’re all my fault, but in my heart I blame the dog.
Tiger is needy. His weird greenish eyes make me feel guilty every time I’m not chucking his rubber Kong for him. When I do throw it, sometimes he brings it back, sometimes he doesn’t. He’s moody as well as needy.
He’s ungrateful. He eats top quality dog food but always wants what I am eating. His look says, ‘Are you going to finish that? Cos if you’re not …’ No matter what we’re doing, he wants to be doing something else. I want a pet that lives in the moment.
He’s sneaky. That is a cat’s job. Dogs aren’t meant to be sneaky.
He’s clumsy. This is a consequence of the sneakiness. Yesterday I sprung him skulking up the stairs and he tried to back down (this was actually quite funny).
He doesn’t smile. Not like Jonah used to.
I wonder if Tiger senses my apathy? If he knows my heart isn’t in it as I fling sticks around the dog park. Maybe I need to try harder. I picture a day in 10 years time when he’s old and grey around the chops.
Will the idea of being without him fill me with dread? Honestly, I can’t see it, but he’s part of our family, so he can stay until I do.
Have you ever had a pet you didn’t click with? Do you think we are obliged to love our pets – or simply to care for them?
If you do love pets and you are looking to add another member to your family start here