This is a tricky one.
Not tricky for me, because I’m fully cognisant of the facts. But tricky to talk about, because the subject is more than a little emotive.
Last week I put my favourite dog to sleep.
“That’s so horrible!” “I love my dogs the same!” “They’re like my children – I could never choose!”
I know. I know. It sounds so wrong.
It’s not that I DON’T love the other one, but…
One was perfect. Friendly, outgoing, loved by everyone (even *whisper* “cat people”). She was a bona fide doll.
The other came with a bunch of troubles (or “challenges” as dog trainers so euphemistically like to call them). He’s come a long way in the last nearly-5 years, I’ve learned a lot, and yes, it’s been really rewarding. He can be shy, diffident and anxious. He can also be funny, enthusiastic and full of character. But his chequered past (about which we know little) still impacts on all our lives and the honest-to-goodness truth is he can sometimes be hard to live with.
I was a kids’ nanny for over a decade. I know everyone thinks they love their kids the same, just in a different way. For different reasons.
Actually, I think everyone GIVES their kids the same amount of love. Or tries to. But on the inside, secretly, with all soul-destroying, heart-wrenching honesty, I firmly believe that all parents KNOW that one of their kids just resonates more with them.
Put it this way: you have the great misfortune to find yourself in a classic disaster-movie scenario, with the kids, on your own, and you have to choose which one to save FIRST. Not which to save, just which to move FIRST to a place of safety. You wouldn’t hesitate. Maybe you don’t even know now what you would do, but in a life-or-death situation, you’d pick one to take first. It’s evolutionary. The risk of course is that you don’t get to go back for the other one(s). So you did choose. Life chose for you. It’s the ultimate parental nightmare – the stuff of late nights, marital-dissolution and alcohol. Living with your decision.
I used to work at Battersea Dogs Home in deepest south London. Sandwiched between 3 major rail lines and a gas works, there was always the imminent prospect of a very short warning of colossal disaster. Our very own urban blockbuster. My dogs used to come to work with me, and often spent the day in separate locations at opposite ends of the very long site. I already knew, if the alarm was sounded, which way I would run first. Which one I would save.
Life chose for me.
Life chose wrong.
So now I have a new training challenge: finding a way to fall back in love with the wrong dog. Because he may not have been my first choice. And he may not be perfect. He may be the wrong dog. But he is still my dog.
And life goes on.