Those five little words: ‘I don’t really like dogs’.
They say that certain moments – certain moments, words or actions – change your life. Hearing these words felt like such a moment. The worst was that she didn’t see the full enormity of what she’d said. That she might equally have taken a sledgehammer to my stomach. I should have known it about her, but I hadn’t, not categorically. Perhaps I’d stuck my head in the sand. I stared at her, for the first time in a sixteen year friendship at a loss for what to say. I wanted to scream ‘WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T LIKE DOGS?? EVERYONE LIKES DOGS!!! NOT LIKING DOGS IS LIKE NOT LIKING ICE-CREAM!!!!!!’
But then slowly, painfully, adultly, came the dawning of a realisation – that she’d been honest, and that I had to respect that and to continue to love her despite what was, in my eyes, a gaping deficiency in moral character. This same friend doesn’t like foxes. I struggle with that one too. Like drinking tea, considering a chance encounter with a fox magical is a trait that I tend to be unable to extricate from moral fortitude and decency. My husband, a man of great moral fortitude and compassion (he likes foxes) doesn’t drink tea. I found it disturbing at first, but learnt to live with it. He’s foreign, and I think that makes it acceptable.
I’ll confess, to my shame, that it affected our friendship a little, for a while. I’m dog mad, over the top by normal standards, I’ve come to that realisation too. Like an alcoholic with his booze, I crave canine company, I get withdrawal when am not with them. I have my favourite ones – but at a push, any will do. They give me a high. And unlike alcohol, or drugs, there are no down sides – except, perhaps, hairy clothes.
I read this somewhere recently: ‘What’s the best feeling in the world?’ ‘When, in a room full of people, a dog enters and sits down next to you.’’ That sums it up for me. Their unadulterated happiness and positive attitude energises me, their company – and the care of them – validates me. I just have to learn to accept and appreciate that not everyone feels the same, and that’s ok. I need to learn not to vilify in my head people that don’t unquestioningly adore every dog that walks the earth. That it doesn’t necessarily make them, or me, a worse – or better – person.