Puppy Love

My little Gypsy wants a pet. The ‘pet conundrum’ is an inevitable part of parenting and it’s never just as simple as running to the pet store. Each family has to weigh it up and think really hard: should we or shouldn’t we?

I know who’ll end up looking after it *roll eyes* but there are so many things to consider. Is our yard large enough? Do we have the money? Where will it sleep? Who will clean up after it? How do we deal with the smells? The list goes on.

On top of that, where our family is concerned, we have one twin who adores animals and one who thinks they’re sort of OK, but at arm’s length.

Then add to that my wife, whose pet-rearing skills are somewhere between abysmal and non-existent. And she’s quick (very quick) to point out that our love of travel isn’t exactly conducive to properly caring for an animal.  And me? Well, it’s not that simple for me. You see, when I was three I met my best
friend. She was just a puppy but we bonded immediately. By contemporary standards she wasn’t a beautiful dog but my brown brindle bitsa was everything to me.

As my family travelled around Australia and Papua New Guinea my puppy – Sheila – and I (and the little wailing bundle that was my sister) were inseparable. If there was adventure to be had, we were there. We tore through sugar cane in Lae, we explored abandoned mines in Kalgoorlie (don’t tell my mum) and we ran through parks in Toowoomba.

When I came home from school she would run out to meet us and I would throw my arms around her. Later she would try to say “hello” every afternoon – it would come out “rurroh” like Scooby Doo but it was definitely her trying to repeat the word I gleefully exclaimed at seeing her each day.

She was friendly, playful, curious and ever-so loyal. And one day she proved fearless after a much bigger dog bit my sister. Sheila went ballistic and inflicted a terrible amount of damage before the larger dog ran for the hills. I’m ashamed to admit that I neglected her a little in my teenage years. We still played but it wasn’t like it had been. Despite that, even as she struggled to walk and went blind in one eye she would run out enthusiastically every day and say “rurroh”.

But I will never forget the day that she had to be put down. It was the humane thing to do but for a while I hated my parents and the world. It’s been more than 20 years but I have tears in my eyes as I write this, thinking of her. I still miss her. She’s a 14-year-sized hole in my heart to this day and quite frankly I don’t think I can go through that again.

But then again, don’t my daughters deserve to know that same sort of love and devotion from someone who isn’t threatening to send them to their room at the first sign of trouble? An adventuring partner who loves them unconditionally?

Maybe we are approaching a time when I need to introduce a new playmate. Or I could just stop sending them to their room and start saying “rurroh”.

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