The day after

Still lots of emotional turmoil in our house. Yesterday we said goodbye to our dog Bosse, and it was the first time the kids had to experience their dog dying, which seems to be harder to take than losing other pets. We’ve had gerbils and guinea pigs too, and of course their deaths have been small tragedies in their own right. But this feels bigger; perhaps because there are just so many reminders around after a dog. Every time you go to the kitchen you see the spot where he used to eat. Every time you go out you think about closing the door so that the dog won’t slip out – until you realize that no one will. Not to mention how quiet it is when you come home: no one jumps down from the sofa and hurries to greet you at the door, exited and happy that you’re back – even if you were only gone for a couple of minutes fetching the mail.

I admit that during the past years there’s been plenty of times when I’ve solemnly sworn that not one more animal will become part of this household. They need care, time and attention – and, let’s face it, cost quite a lot of money. I still haven’t quite recovered from the time one of our guinea pigs needed hormone injections – worth 300 euros… But now, sitting here in an empty house, I’m not quite sure anymore. Perhaps it’s still worth it – even with all the quirks and downsides. And I know that for the kids, having a dog has meant the world. They’ve told me about all the times when they’ve thought no one listens to them, but they could always talk to Bosse. He never judged or questioned like people sometimes do – just offered quiet comfort and compassion. My youngest daughter told me that when she still had trouble with her reading a few years ago, she used to practice with Bosse and he listened attentively through the whole story, as many times over as she needed to read it. And my son confessed that Bosse had heard all of his secrets – even the embarrassing ones he didn’t want to tell us.

Some time ago I read a wonderful story about therapy dogs in an orphanage. Many of the children living there had been through rough times, but they bonded with the dogs much faster than with humans. The personnel had their work shifts and sometimes went away, but if you needed to talk or just wanted a cuddle, these live-in dogs were always there – no matter what time of day it was. I can only imagine what it meant to those kids to have someone happily and attentively waiting at the door when you come home. And also: to have someone depend on your care. That, if anything, will give you a sense of importance and self-worth.

Since I’ve seen how important that’s been for my children, I might very well reconsider my decision to keep animals out. Even if it means goodbye to free time and hello again to dog hairs and veterinary bills…

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