There are so many benefits to having a dog, really life-altering ones: dogs give you structure, force you to exercise, help you to forge casual but, over time, meaningful bonds with the owners of other dogs, offer companionship. But more than any of that, they love you above all others. They love you to reaches you don’t even understand; one might say they teach you what love is. Every dog is an emotional support animal.
But you know what? Not my dog. Romeo is an emotional drain animal.
“Was he a rescue?” people always ask, which is code for: “Did you choose this bald, psychopathic wrecking ball because you are a kind but fundamentally witless person?” No, we got him off Gumtree. We met the parents multiple times. Were there any red flags? Yes, yes, there were. His mother was called Rebel and his father was called Rogue. If I’d known these descriptions were literal, that’s not what I’d have wanted in staffordshire bull terriers. I’d have wanted them to be called Patience and Elric. Rogue was always behind a baby gate when we visited, but this was because he was just too pleased to see us, and that suited me fine. I love an enthusiast; I didn’t think about what it signified, which was: “This dog, who we’ve lived with for seven years, we cannot control.”
Romeo was bold as a puppy but exhibited no real dog-on-dog aggression until he was about 11 months old, when he got into a ruck with a French bulldog. But that was fine. I picked up the frenchie, which bit me, but at least no animals were harmed. That was obviously a cracking wheeze from Romeo’s point of view, because, after that, we got into scrapes everywhere: a great dane, a ridgeback – I was constantly having to get between him and a massive great unit, who could have eaten him alive if only they’d had a fraction of his raw, tenacious savagery.
Now, I only take him out on a lead, and we have these long, desultory walks that suit neither of us – he wants to move fast and kill things; I want to chat to people. All I ever get to say is “sorry”. If a walk concludes with only one incident – a sudden surge forward after a fox, for example, or a “come over here and say that” barking match with a husky across an A road – that’s a good day.
The worst of it is, he really loves people, all people, an equal amount. It’s quite asymmetrical: I’m just one of potentially limitless love objects to him, while he is my One True Dog.
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