I used to (OK, still do) hate ‘pet people’ with a passion. You know the type – has at least one of them be it cats or dogs and their whole lives revolve around their pets. Endless dog training posts on Facebook or check out this cute thing my cat did today, and so on. Then you have the ones who go that crazy step beyond and post things as their pet.
Yeah, that’s me. This past weekend, I discovered what it’s like to have – in this case – a dog. A dog called Dude, to be precise. He has been our house guest when his owner was away for the weekend. Dude is an Italian Mastiff, and he is a rather huge lump of love sick neediness. He’s an older gentleman, 10 years old and that’s a very respectable age for a dog his size. It’s pathetic really. His loving eyes look at me pleadingly to the point where I cannot walk past him without speaking in a silly voice and cuddling him endlessly. As I write this, I am tired from cleaning our bedroom floor where he decided to take a shit when I misinterpreted his desperate communication as neediness for ME rather than LOOK CHICK, I NEED TO TAKE A DUMP. I am covered in dog fur from scratching and cuddling him, and I stink of dog. There are drool stains on the sleeves of my top (I’ll never get those out) and the carpet has got so much dog hair rubbed into it I don’t see how we can ever get it out. And the poor mite clearly knew all wasn’t right after I had to go into the bedroom with a bucket and a scrubbing brush. If his please-love-me eyes didn’t get me before, they sure do now. Silly, old sod.
Dude has decided I am his master, which is very sweet and flattering too. He scuffles after me (scuffles because he is old and also because his hind legs are deformed), always makes sure he knows where he’s got me, and yesterday when I popped out for a bit, my partner said Dude had got a bit anxious and had sat right by the door waiting for me to come back. Bless his big, old, clumsy heart. I’m not sure my partner is too keen, and I can totally understand why. Never mind that Dude is huge, he also sheds a tonne of fur per hour (I don’t know how he has any left), he smells, there’s drool everywhere and he farts a LOT. All in all, he isn’t the most pleasant house guest.
But that’s not it.
B’s not keen because I have turned into Crazy Dog Lady. I speak in a silly voice (that, to be fair, even irritates Dude), I get restless when out as I don’t want Dude to feel alone (he probably just enjoys the peace and quiet), I reek of dog from scratching and cuddling him (his scent is so strong it stays on your hands even after you have washed them) and worst of all: I put Dude posts on Facebook. As Dude. Yeah, bad, isn’t it? I freaking HATE people like that! It makes me sigh and slap my forehead when I see those ridiculous Facebook updates with Crazy Pet People speaking on behalf of their pets. Like I did now. All these cats and dogs who are probably mortified to be linked to their embarrassing humans on Facebook, praying to higher pet powers that none of their friends will saunter past a computer and spot them. Imagine, young felines and pups bullying each other on Ask.fm as a result, and then a teenage pet suicide epidemic. You never know. If you ever hear of an Italian Mastiff in west London who suddenly found life too much to bear, following other Mastiffs laughing at him because he associated with me, the Crazy Dog Lady, then you know who’s to blame. I didn’t tag him though and we don’t have mutual friends, so Dude’s embarrassing friend Crazy Dog Lady is in all likelihood a dark secret he can keep safe.
And what has this taught me?
It’s taught me that the love of a dog should never be underestimated (I can’t speak for cats). It has also taught me that we are not yet ready for a dog of our own, because my partner (despite taking the shat-on-rug we had to throw away in his stride) ended up feeling like he wasn’t Number One anymore. It showed us that I am a prime candidate for being Crazy Dog Lady and should we get our own mutt, my partner would have to accept coming down the pecking order. My mother had a dog and although I only saw him two or three times a year, he was the centre of all our universes. Now that he’s gone (nothing sinister – he just got old and passed on), my mother and my step-dad go on road trips and have thankfully discovered they get along. Because that’s the risk, right? You get this companion, and you neglect all the others just like I did this weekend.
Oh, that sounds now like I caused damage to my relationship – I didn’t – or neglected everything else in order to care for Dude – I didn’t – but getting a dog, caring for a dog, is not a case of getting a cute addition to the family. Getting or caring for a dog is welcoming a real being, a personality, and that does take up space. That soul you take on, you need to have enough love to heap on. That’s what I mean when I say I cannot walk past Dude without at least speaking to him in my stupid dog-voice and cuddle him stupid.
So. The moral of the story is that a dog – or ANY pet – is the most wonderful and rewarding addition you could ever hope to welcome into your life. But only do so when you are ready, because they need as much love and care as a child, at the same time as they reward you with the same level of love and pride a child does. A huge commitment. Like that wasn’t something I knew already. It’s just now I really know it. Therefore, I am right now a pet lover who is happy to give up the odd weekend to care for guests, but not quite at the stage where I (or we) can make that commitment.
I’ll cry my eyes out when Dude leaves though. What will I do without that big lump around?