At the end of my relationship, the ownership of our dog became paramount. And as I’ve learned, fur or human baby, things fall apart quickly. Sorry, Bosco.
Society often derides those who choose dogs over children. They’ve taken the easier route. Generally speaking, it’s a fairly accurate thing. The blameless unconditional love pooches have for you is an absolute boon, but also the root cause of the problem.
Peel the calendar back to 2014, and my partner and I welcomed our new fur-baby to this world, a Lab-Retriever named Bosco. As our social media would attest, we fell as hard all parents do. Every individualist gesture, every mistake, every bridge burned grew our love for him. He was a dickhead, sure, but he was our dickhead.
However, outside of Bosco’s control, not everything was well with his hoomans. Thin ice was the landscape we skated on for many years, and in some way, I suppose Bosco represented the lengths we’d go to to make it work. And for a while, it did. Our attention was on him, and not each other. But as soon as he graduated from puppydom and gained his independence, the unresolved problems reemerged.
One day, we decided it would be better if we called it off.
The conversation quickly turned to our son. Who would he live with?
It’s a fairly harsh question to ask, because there’s no right answer. Despite our efforts to curry his favour, he loved us both. Choosing either would be unfair on him, and indeed us too. What we agreed on was visitation. I’d move out, and he’d alternate between two houses, theoretically solving the issue.
Looking back, trusting us to handle the situation like adults was a mistake.
What followed was every ugly custody battle I’ve seen referenced on daytime soaps and late night repeats of COPS. Once I laughed at such cartoonish behaviour, but living it is a completely different, soul-draining experience. I’m doing my best to remain objective, as we’re both equally guilty, and publicly panning your ex under a cloak of anonymity is indeed a dick move, but don’t judge me, consider this a cautionary tale.
Like all conflict between two disparate parties, the war started with a series of small, albeit deliberate actions. For the first couple of months, everything went to plan. While the space between us grew and shrank in accordance with the seven stages of grief, we left Bosco out of it. Despite the fury of texts, or drunken emotional abuses, or attached blame, we always stuck to the agreement.
The first shots were fired with the change of his collar. He arrived at my house, and shining through his golden rubber aura was the glint of new tag, with my phone number removed. I immediately called the remaining number on the tag, seeking answers. The cold familiar voice on the other end informed that it was necessary because Bosco calls her place home, and if he was to ever run away, that’d be the place he’d be returned to.
With fist balled, nails dug into my palm, I agreed to her logic. And then I took her name off Bosco’s pet insurance.
Did I feel guilt? No.
But, perhaps I should, because after that it got a bit childish, with the doggo representing the only adult in the situation. Dates were missed, so further dates were missed in revenge. A king’s ransom was dropped on better food, better toys, better doggy bed. It was a retail Cold War. We couldn’t engage each other directly, so we stockpiled reasons.
What followed was every ugly custody battle I’ve seen referenced on daytime soaps and late night repeats of COPS. Publicly panning your ex under a cloak of anonymity is indeed a dick move, but don’t judge me, consider this a cautionary tale.
In the height of the conflict, I decided to splurge on a daddy/doggo boyz road trip. We’d go bush, hang out and maybe meet some ladies. The trip was as hoped, but like all holidays, returning home was a trial. Our yard had clearly been broken into, the gate relocated from its hinges. Turning my phone back on, the cascading voicemails solved the crime. She frankly admitted that I took him without telling her, and it was her turn to have him.
However, a kicked gate should have served as an obvious red flag. After the gate incident, tempers dropped significantly. For a while, it seemed normal. Until I returned home one evening, to be greeted by the side gate cackling it’s flapping laugh at me, and there was not a Bosco in the yard behind it. What followed next was a sort of furious slow motion, where seconds drag but actions are quick. I canvassed his usual spots, the neighbourhood, the park. No Bosco. On impulse, I called her; relief turned to outrage when I discovered that not only did she have him, she took him purely on the basis to make me think he ran away, a measure of payback to “the camping incident”.
Clearly what we needed was council, as the people we were dealing with were now strangers. With no official document, binding agreement or middle ground to meet on, we decided to let Bosco choose.
He made his choice, and I do miss him.
In retrospect, it could have been handled better. I should have got a lawyer, I should have tried to make it work in another way, but no. My only advice is if there’s a fraction of doubt in the longevity of a relationship, don’t bring another entity into it. Especially a pooch.
As the oft-repeated Internet phrase states: “We don’t deserve dogs.”
I know we certainly didn’t.