Thursday 25 April 2019

Eva Hall: In defence of dog-owners 'Do I love my dog like you love your kids? Yes I do. Let's face it - he's just better'

They call it puppy love: Eva Hall and her 30kg Husky dog, Clint. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
They call it puppy love: Eva Hall and her 30kg Husky dog, Clint. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

He leaves a trail of white fur wherever he goes which requires two vacuuming sessions a day, will only eat his dinner if it's cut up into tiny pieces despite having T rex-size teeth, clears out entire rooms with farts that smell like pure diarrhoea, and makes me regret ever teaching him to give the paw, as he thinks he can use it whenever he feels like sharing my biscuit.

Clint, all 30kg of him, is a full-time job. Sure, I'd love for him to not drag me down the road when he gets a whiff of another dog in a remote field 10,000 miles away, I wish he wouldn't always choose to do his business right when the lights go red and a line of traffic forms to watch me pick it up, I wish he'd choose just one season of the year to shed his coat rather than all four, and by God, I wish he'd just eat the damn dog food the local shop sells instead of making me walk miles to get the only one his palate will tolerate.

But would I be without him? Not for all the dog-grooming-saving in the world. From the moment we rescued him at 12 weeks old, I knew we'd be firm friends. Flawed in so many ways, with a clipped tail, a scarred nose, and completely petrified of any human contact, it just made me want to care for this fluffy little bundle of pure joy even more.

He's now aged seven, and still as demanding as ever. But every morning I come downstairs and he greets me with his belly for his all-over body massage and I happily oblige, even before I properly open my eyes. When I come home in the evening he's sitting in the same spot with his ears pricked up and the smiliest face I've ever seen.

My evenings mainly consist of walking him, playing with him, brushing him and cutting his food into tiny pieces.

My weekends are pretty much the same, except for when I meet up with friends who are swapping their photos of their kids and I throw in the photo of Clint in his latest Halloween costume and they all exclaim: "Are you comparing your dog to my child?" And the answer is yes, yes I am. I love him as much as you love your kids, I spend as much time with him as you spend with your kids, and let's face it, he's just better than your kids. He doesn't give me back-talk, he doesn't throw tantrums, he doesn't need his nappy changed every hour, and he doesn't have sticky hands.

Instead all he wants is a belly rub in the morning, a daily run around the field, his food in a bowl and a play before bedtime. I admit I am more attached to Clint than any other animal I had growing up. We had dogs, fish and several birds who I thought I loved. Perhaps it's because I was that bit older when I got him (17) and he was the most responsibility I had in my life.

Ihave an irrational fear of something bad happening to him; I regularly wake up in a sweat from a night terror in which he is badly injured. If I'm walking him in a slightly remote area and a figure is coming towards us I immediately assume they are going to dognap him. If I hear a noise in the middle of the night the first thing I think of is if I locked the door of the room he is in.

This fear is completely unfounded - nothing has ever given me reason to think he's in peril, apart from the one time an undesirable man approached us and Clint stood in between us with his tail down and ears so far up his head I thought he was going to take off. And there was that time the guys with the giant butterfly nets approached us shouting in the Phoenix Park to demand I put him back on his lead and he circled them until they backed away - but these were incidents where Clint was protecting ME because he sensed I was in danger. Just another reason to love him.

A few years back when I was walking him a man approached me and asked how I had trained him. Thinking of a sarcastic reply because I thought he was joking, the man said he'd never seen a husky walk so calmly on the lead, and his friend who had one spent hundreds of hours and euros training his and he still pulled. I looked down at Clint who was sitting beside me watching the man talk with his tongue hanging out, smiling. "It just takes time," was my reply. And I walked off, with Clint right by my side, proud as punch at how far he'd come from the distressed little puppy we rescued from the boot of a car.

When I'm hungover he lies on the sofa beside me making sure I'm okay. When he gets a new toy he gives me his old one so I don't feel left out. When I'm in the kitchen and can't hear the door he lets me know someone's at it.

I'm probably deluding myself thinking he needs me just as much as I need him; I'm sure he'd be just as happy with my mother, who watches him while I'm in work, and spoils him rotten, or any of my dog-loving sisters who often have him for play dates with their dogs (his cousins).

Maybe I do get more out of the relationship. But so what? I may not have carried him in my belly for nine months, but even at the age of seven, and as he rests his giant head, with his fur on top moulting on my feet, and his eye twitching in sequence to whatever dream he's having, he'll always be my baby. And you never know - that twitch could mean he's having the same night terrors about me as I have about him!

Irish Independent

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