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After my relationship ended, the question soon turned to who got the kids. Admittedly, while our kid was a dog, the regret, doubt and pain is very much present.
As is forever the case when a union is split and kids are involved, there’s an effort to keep appearances, keep involved, or at the very least, keep tabs.
I mean, you do your best to be there, despite the fact you’re not. So you suppress the slight twinkle of betrayal when you hear that there’s a new guy taking your progeny to the beach. That was our thing. Your mind races insane steps, as you if this surrogate dad is better than you were. Would my kid still remember me? Does he remember the first time we took him home, when he fell asleep in my lap in the car? I certainly hope so. While I miss him awfully, I’m not here to discuss that. What am I here for is to discuss a statement that was aimed at me by Duke’s mother.
‘You miss the dogs more than you do me.’
While I didn’t exactly confirm her suspicions, my lack of a meaningful rebuke might well have confirmed it. Which is the awful truth. You always miss the kids more than the partner you had them with. I assume this also goes for the bipedal fur-less equivalent, I know it certainly is the case with pets.
You see, it’s not a fair fight.
To my ex who might be reading this, don’t consider this a vicious articulation of your shortcomings, just know that I possess the same ones. It will forever be an unfair comparison, an unbalanced fight. Dogs, bless them, have a surplus of love. People do not. Doggos are not afflicted by the cut-and-thrust, give-and-take contours of romance’s battlefield. There is no give and take, they’re all give, and don’t feel taken advantage of because of it. They just want to be near us, despite our condition. They’re a blameless singular force. They love us, and that’s it, and we certainly don’t deserve it.
Honestly, the dogs were always happy to see you, and I couldn’t guarantee the same. Neither could you.
If you are still reading, the dogs were always happy to see you, and I couldn’t guarantee the same. Neither could you. The simple truth is that the dogs did nothing to damage themselves in our eyes. There was no suspicion, no hurled cutlery, no dashed expectations. We can blame each other, and should, but the kids were above approach, and will forever remain so. Love is beautiful and kid, ugly and brutal. A clash of dull edges, a buffing down of the self until a palatable medium ground is built on. Sometimes that place is not reached.
It’s far more complex than walkies, and the possibilities of more walkies.
Perhaps we’re overthinking it. People should form their romantic expectations the way our canine pals view us. Simple joy, interspersed with the thrill of being taken outside and café dates on Sunday. Sadly, we’re far too evolved for that thinking.
As for what I’ve learned, I realise that people parents might scoff at the next line, but losing your dog, the one you raised, costs you a part of yourself. They might not be real kids, but the pain is real. I know I’m not Duke’s real dad, but I absolutely am, and I will fight you over that fact. Feeling the absence of unquestionable love is a tough emotional treat to sit for. The fact that I might have harmed his development, walking out the door when we just started needing each other, turns my stomach that only paternal angst can. But it’s something I’ll always have to live with.
To those who are looking to band-aid a relationship with a pooch, or for those who are looking to take the next step carried by the clomping paws of joy, my advice to you is to make sure that you’re absolutely sure, as the absence of the wet nose of failed love’s innocent victim is a day at the beach forever denied.