lifestyle

What is your guilty secret?

I don’t love my dog as I should.

I just got back from dropping Tiger at the vet’s to have a hydrobath (in summer I wash him with the hose, but it’s cold today). They will call me in 30 minutes to say he’s done. I’ll collect him in an hour. Maybe two. I’ll arrive and find other dog owners cooing over their freshly groomed pooches and I’ll feel a fraud – because I don’t feel what they feel. I like Tiger well enough, but I can’t say I love him.

This is unexpected and shameful. Tiger was a much-wanted family pet, as much by me as the kids. Our previous dog, Jonah, died of oldness five 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. The kids were besotted. I was besotted with their besottedness.

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. The kids (especially our 8 year old daughter) adore Tiger but I can’t say I do. I’m sure there are many reasons and they are 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 at great expense to the management 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. Sometimes I think 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? Frankly, I can’t see it, but he’s part of our family so he can stay until I do.

Do you have a guilty secret ? Something that you think you might need to share?

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