It seems that we are just not meant to own more than one animal. Finn is the last surviving cat from a litter of seven. We gave three away, one ran away and two more got killed on the road. Our attempts to keep goldfish tended to end with small masses of dead fishy matter floating near the top of the tank, despite all our best efforts.We tried several times to bring in new cats to keep Finn company, but she invariably drove them out, turning the house into a mini warzone until we found new homes for the new cats instead.
So why did we think we would have any luck owning a dog?
We have never owned a dog before. Dessert Chef had dogs when she was young, but they were Nan & Obi's, so while the kids played with them, they didn't actually train them and do all the hard work of looking after them. What we weren't prepared for was just how very different a dog is to keep from a cat, and we got a taste of what we were in for very quickly.
As a writer, I much prefer the idea of dogs than I do of cats. There's something about being just a few steps evolved from wolves, something raw and dangerous and unbridled about dogs that lends them a poetic power that cats don't have. Where cats are aloof and condescending, dogs are immediate, rugged, and only ever moments from action. Strangely, even though this is how I imagine dogs, I never considered any of this when we decided to adopt Lucy. I had an idealised picture in my mind of a loyal servant trotting along behind us, chasing sticks and curling up by the fire in the winter. So much I didn't know.
We thought Lucy was a calm, quiet, relaxed dog, but when she came to us, she was as tightly wound as a spring, timid, and nervous as all hell.
A dog is a hunter, looking for every opportunity it can to move up the ranks of its pack by showing it is the dominant animal. Lucy decided straight away that in her new pack Dessert Chef was the boss; that she came second; that she would tolerate but not obey me; and that Isaac was by a long way the bottom of the food chain. Had we known more about dogs from the outset, we probably wouldn't have chosen a dog as big as Lucy. Lucy was as tall as Isaac and 5kg heavier. She first batted him with a paw, scratching his face, and later on that day she snapped her teeth right in his face.
This scared us, and rightly so. Lucy was warning Isaac that she was dominant to him, and it would take a whole lot of training before we could teach her otherwise. In the meantime, it would only take a second for Lucy's snap to turn into a bite, and that was an outcome that we were not at all prepared to risk.
I took Lucy to work with me yesterday, and after consultation with the SPCA, we decided to return her to them. There were other families who had been eager to have her as a pet, so she would be found a new home. It was a tough choice, but it was also the only choice.
So for 48 hours we were dog-owners, and then we were not. She'll have a good home, Isaac won't be at risk of being set upon by a dog who just wants to be the boss because she's bigger, Dessert Chef is no longer stressing about keeping dog and toddler apart, and Finn is back sleeping on my knee again.
Goodbye Lucy. Welcome back status quo.