Growing up, our family always had dogs.
We all loved them, each in our own ways. My mother loved them at a distance, my father and brother loved the rough and tumble you get with a dog, and I loved the companionship. That’s probably boiling it down way too simply, but it’s as good an explanation as ever.
Unfortunately that rough and tumble side though meant that sometimes what started as genuine play became teasing, and of course, if an animal bites or growls or anything – well, that’s not appropriate, because it’s “all in good spirits” – it’s “just a game”.
In reality I have zero tolerance for that. If you tease an animal, and it strikes back, it’s likely you’re getting it back in equal measure to what you gave.
But I’m not dredging this up because of old memories of pets long gone. This morning I got to thinking about this, and realised a basic fact.
Sometimes I was the dog.
Maybe I had a sensitive side early. I certainly wasn’t interested in sport. Maybe my severe speech impediment as a kid affected me more subtly than I ever gave it credit for, and left me reserved enough that team activities had no appeal to me. Whatever. Somehow, somewhy, I’d end up being the dog. Who can say how frequently? If I had to guess, I’d say at least fortnightly, or maybe even weekly at times. “Teasing” was a part of our household.
That meant that sometimes a cigarette lighter would be casually lit against my leg hair “because it’s fun”, or I’d be jabbed for a few hours until I snapped, but regardless, the process was almost universally the same. Jab jab. Jab jab jab. Jab jab jab jab jab. SNAP. Explosion. “You’re a bad sport, can’t you take a joke!?”
I think my brother realised it went to far when, after a particularly lengthy jab session that lasted several hours, my snap involved him barricading himself in his bedroom, a hole the size of my knee in his door, and me wondering why I had a knife in my hand. But it was all a joke, right?
Being the dog sucks.
Trust me, I have better control of my temper these days – such a snap would never happen again. I was young, hormonal, and well, only my brother could ever drive me to such a rage. At the same time, I do admit to having a bad temper, and sometimes, I’m ashamed to say, it’s directed to the people who least deserve it. But, in learning to own and acknowledge it, I’m also regaining the focus to deal with it.
One day, I’ll stop being the dog.