I've been struggling with a dilemma recently, now resolved, and I thought it was worth sharing with you all.
I now live alone, except for my little old dog. Pets are, as anyone who has them knows, a tie at the best of times. At holiday time, you either bung them in boarding kennels or take them with you. Even working can be an issue, as leaving them shut up in the house for eight or nine hours every day does not seem like a great way to treat a dog. Most of my friends who are out at work all day choose not to have dogs.
I've been lucky enough to based at home for many years, so have got used to fitting my needs in around those of husband and child as well as dogs. But now, it's just me and the dog, and I've been getting extremely itchy feet.
My dog was diagnosed with doggy dementia last year and so cannot be put into kennels any more. I was delighted that we got several short trips away last year, either to wonderful, understanding friends or to the rare hotel that takes dogs.
But I want to do more than have an odd night away. I want to go on proper holiday. I want to explore. I want to find a new place to live. The latest frustration was when I passed an audition for a radio quiz show - very exciting! Then I discovered the recording was to be 500 miles away and would need two nights away. My lovely son could dogsit for one night but not two. My dog is too batty to leave with any of my friends - what to do, what to do? I racked my brains for weeks.
I went through all the options. I talked it through with friends and family. And this is where it starts to get difficult. Almost everyone was of the opinion that I shouldn't be allowing the needs of a mere animal to be outweighing my own. I'm not sure what they expected me to do. Mind you, I'm pretty sure one or two of them would have had her whisked down to the vets before you could say Jack Russell. It was put to me that I was being overly sentimental about her or even that I was using her as an excuse for not going to the broadcast.
I was pretty confident that neither of these was the case. All I was facing was the same issue that any carer faces - restrictions on one's freedom because of the needs of the beloved one cares for. I decided that I had only two options - either take her with me on this long journey and try to turn it into a mini holiday or withdraw from the quiz and have another go another year.
I decided to withdraw. The journey would have been stressful for both of us and having her with me would have distracted from the experience of the quiz. I can enter the competition in a year or two so I am not losing anything. In the meantime I can keep on giving her as calm and happy a life as I can.
I haven't had a moment's regret since I withdrew. And then yesterday, by way of reward, I saw this scene:
After the dark depths of winter, the Sun had at last crept above the hill and was shining full into the house. My little old lady of a dog lay curled up in its warmth, sleeping contentedly. What a wonderful sight. I knew then without a doubt that I had made the right decision. She may 'only' be a dog but she has a right to a full and decent life. She is part of my tribe. I'm doing for her no more and no less than I'd do for my granny. There will come a time when her life no longer brings her pleasure and I will have to make the dreaded decision but in the meantime we'll carry on as we are, living a little more quietly than I would like but still enjoying walks and cuddles and licks and the occasional magic moment in the Sun.