Is it wrong to love a dog?
Six weeks ago I had to put my dog Kobe to sleep to end his suffering. We had been together for close to fifteen years and not long ago he had his spleen removed due to cancer. Due to this, I had been prepared for this moment, but naturally going through it I was still affected by it. This wasn’t surprising but my emotions since that horrible weekend have affected me much more than I had anticipated.
While making the decision to end his suffering in the end was easy due to his quickly deteriorating condition, what I have discovered that has been far worse for me to manage since Kobe’s passing has been the silent home I have been left with and the simple reminders of my dog’s life through my daily routines.
After fifteen years you simply don’t realize the simple daily rituals that you go through with your dog until they are gone. Due to this, the simplest routines bring back memories of some of the best times you spent with your pet. For instance, I still find myself avoiding the area I set aside near my kitchen for Kobe’s food and water as I used to routinely trip over it spilling his food and water everywhere.
I still hesitate at the door as I enter the rear door of my unit in anticipation of the bundle of energy that use to greet me every time I came through it. I sit on my couch each night in the same way as I did to give Kobe space to curl up on my lap, I find myself sleeping on the same side of my bed each night as Kobe was an absolute bed hog who took delight in taking up as much of the bed as he could. I still keep the shower door open as Kobe use to love curling up on the bathmat as I took my shower. I still find myself putting my food in places of safety so as to prevent Kobe absconding with it off my plate. Sadly in each of these moments, I find myself missing my dog terribly.
Even more sadly, when I do miss him, I also find myself filled with guilt. As a 56-year-old single man I have no wife, no kids and until this point, I had no issue with that, no regrets for the past fifteen years that Kobe had effectively been my family. Now that he is gone and I am going through what naturally is the human coping mechanisms of dealing with that loss I find myself grieving far more for my dog than some fellow humans I have lost in my life.
This has led to me questioning myself, is it wrong to miss your dog that much? Is it wrong to love a dog?
How many others are in this position? I would believe it would be a considerable part of population, I find myself torn on this quandary, after all a pet is an animal and for example you cannot compare the loss of my pet to a parent’s loss of their child, or a person’s loss of their parent or sibling, or a person’s loss of their partner? or can you?
Maybe the loss of a life who was entirely dependent upon you for their food, their health their happiness, their comfort and relied more than most on your love and understanding can play a far greater role on your emotional make up than you give them credit for. Our pets are so dependent upon us that their love and loyalty to their owner is magnified several times over.
After all, how many times do you receive an angry word from your dog, how many times do they complain about their food, your moods, how you look in the morning. On the other side, how often do they greet you with unbridled enthusiasm and affection, how many times do they sense that you need some comforting?
When you have to go to work or a social function and you have to leave them behind how bad do they make you feel with a sad look as you leave. How often do the simple things they do make you laugh and brighten your day? For me taking Kobe through a McDonald’s drive-through was always fun. The closer we got the more excited he became and once in the drive-through, there was no containing him until he received his burger. He not only brought joy and laughter into my life during those drive through adventures but to dozens of McDonald’s staff as well.
Now I prefer to park and eat in, the drive-through is just not the same for me anymore.
Dogs and other pets, can remind us humans of how silly we are at times and how much we have to be grateful for. Kobe never needed an Xbox or play station to keep him entertained, a stick, tree branch, old ball or a bone from the butcher would keep him entertained for hours. I miss our simple games so much and the ability he had just to make me feel good on any day but especially on a bad one.
As anybody who ever met Kobe will testify, Kobe was a people’s dog, he always wanted to say hello, to wag a tail to jump on a lap, a back, some shoulders, just about anything. When I took him for walks one of my favourite things was seeing the joy he brought others, as humans, we can be so bad at this, our pets have much to teach us.
I inherited a number of things from parents, some I embrace, some I regret, but a love for my dog is one thing I will always be grateful for. I never understood how my Dad got so smitten with his dogs when us kids seemed to irritate him so much. I found myself questioning how can you love your dog more than your children? I suspect I have some idea.
It’s not that you love your pets more than your human family, but what I think I have figured out it’s only natural to reciprocate emotions with emotion. Dogs give you love, joy, affectionate, loyalty, fun and endless smiles in your life. They also are totally reliant on you so they teach you accountability and responsibility and just like with a human child that can change and mature you.
Of course, I can love a human as well, but we do make it so much harder than it needs to be a time. To love a dog or a pet is only natural due to their nature. In fact, one of their greatest lessons, is that a dog can find love for their owner, no matter how badly they are treated, no matter the hate in our human hearts, a dog will remain loyal and loving, how many of us humans can lay claim to that? On reflection, hand on heart, I cannot.
Owning a dog, accepting them as a member of your family as an integral part of your life and even more importantly of who you are, simply makes you a better person a better human and if, for no other reason alone, that is reason enough to love a dog. I am at peace with that now, l miss my boy every day, but just as with the loss of a human in your life, things get easy as time passes.
I know I will have another dog in my life but not just yet, as now that I have reconciled with the fact that you can love a dog, that also means you risk having your heartbroken once more. When I am ready I will embrace all the joy, loyalty and love that dog will bring into my life once more and know that it is fine to embrace that.
That is one final gift my Kobe has given me since his passing. Even in death dogs make you a better person.
When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive.
When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile.
When I am happy, he is joy unbounded.
When I am a fool, he ignores it.
When I succeed, he brags.
Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion.
With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things.
He has promised to wait for me… whenever… wherever – in case I need him. And I expect I will – as I always have. He is just my dog.”
– Gene Hill