The pain and joy of being "top dog"

If you’ve ever loved a dog, you have to read this article: Dog gone: Mourning a pet – but be prepared to cry.  My dad sent me the link, because he knows that I am still mourning Simba, after nearly three years.  His collar hangs on the corner of the frame of my bed and I still feel guilty at making the decision to have him put down owing to kidney problems, even though I know it was the right thing to do.

Within two days of losing this 50kg German Shepherd-Rottweiler cross, it was obvious that my other dog, Dougal was so distressed that we needed another dog.  So I found Barley through in Poole.  He is a cheeky Collie-Jack Russell cross and soon found his home in our hearts.  The other week Barley was so ill that I rushed him to the vets believing he’d had a stroke and wouldn’t be coming back with me.  Fortunately, he recovered fully with the vet believing he had suffered a minor brain haemorrhage resulting from English heartworm (caught from slugs and snails).

Why do we put ourselves through the pain?  We know that at some point that day will come when our hearts are broken.  I’ve comforted my neighbour, and swapped stories with several students, who are distraught over the death of a dog.  Often it hurts more than losing a relative – which I know sounds awful.

The reason why we keep on bringing them home to love is that what they offer in return is unconditional and genuine.  My parents have only had Ivory with them for a few weeks but within minutes the Landseer Newfoundland princess was part of the family.  

They remind us of the importance of enjoying the good times.  For children, dogs teach them the power of non-verbal communications and respect for others.  For older people, dogs demand that you live every day of your life.

Dogs aren’t complicated – the adage that dogs have masters and cats have servants is true.  Being looked up to as “top dog” is a responsibility.  There are expectations that have to be met.  But in return, your place in the pack is assured – how often can you say that in life.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.