Life with dog

1/17/2017 06:15:00 pm

I remember the moment exactly, sitting around the table eating dinner on a summer evening. It was still light outside, and apropros of nothing he said, “Ellie, I bought you a dog.”

There are three kinds of people in life: dog people, cat people, and people who have something wrong with them. I have always been a dog person.

Do you like my side pony? And my fluro scrunchie??
Growing up we had Mini, a beautiful golden cocker spaniel who, aged 16, deaf, blind, and demented, finally got sent to the vet for relief by way of the big green needle. I called my mother a murderer, and when Mini’s ashes came back from the vet I fashioned my own funeral procession, marching (stomping) around the house, box held in front of me, humming the Funeral March just loud enough to ensure that everyone in the house heard it. Well, I have always loved Chopin….

Centre: Jenny, Mini and Dougal
We didn’t get another dog straight away. Couldn’t. Not with the memory of Mini still so fresh.

And so that summer evening, after a year or maybe two of life without dog, the light faded and my excitement grew.

We drove out of town to pick her up and she was so, so tiny. Her little pink claws were so fine that they kept catching in the weave of my shirt. It was a white polo shirt, my school uniform, so it must have been Friday (on other days we wore red) and I must have been in Year 6. You know how a polo shirt has those tiny little holes up close, a kind of waffle weave? That’s how small my girl was.

I was bestowed the honour of naming her, and so with much gravity I declared that she would be Caramel. Because, you know…. jersey caramels

The name never really stuck; she was too obstinate. One day in the car at Wooli, parked outside the fish shop, Mum snapped (I can only assume that the dog had done something naughty, and had refused to respond to screeches of CARAMEL, CARAMELLLLLL as she ran away down the beach), “She can either be Cara or Mel. Pick one.” So she was Mel.

In some ways she was the worst dog. She was not obedient. She barked (at nothing and everything). She jumped. She piss-bolted out of the front door every time it opened. And she had long hair that shed on all surfaces, and knitted its way into all fabrics so that it could not simply be brushed off. Maintaining hair-free clothing around a dog with long, wiry, white hair is not easy. The dark maroon wool of our school jumpers was a particularly strong magnet. But to love her was to be one with her hair.

When I moved to Sydney for uni I got teary only once: the moment that I left Mel behind. She got older, and more rickety, and then one day mum called and said that Mel was at the vet with a drip in her paw and they were trying to make her comfortable. They were going to try and wait until the weekend so that I could get there to say goodbye, but after a day, I spoke to the vet and she said that the kinder thing was to end it. I cried at work. I cried at home. I cried as I wrote this out years down the track, because I loved that dog so much. And it was more than just the love I had for her, but the feeling that she was the last gift that my father gave me that was untainted by all the bullshit that would follow in the years to come.

Twelve years I lived in Sydney, six of them with the bunnies. The bunnies made me accountable to the world. I had to feed them every day, even if I felt like staying under the covers. But bunnies are not dogs, in spite of their cuteness. The bunnies did not need me, they simply tolerated me, and even then…not really. Still, one of the hardest things about the move to Dubai was rehoming my girls. On a very down day not so long ago, I sobbed, “I’ve given up everything, even my bunnies,” and it was the bunnies that made me feel the saddest.

While I’ve been so sad, so many times in the last few years, 2016 was awful. It was the most stressful, lonely, unsettled time. This big white apartment, with its hard surfaces and silence. My friends, too far away. The friends we thought we had, vanished. As silent as the apartment. The things I said I would do to stay happy, too difficult. Too hot and dusty, and no one to talk to, and so much sand. One night I stood on the balcony and I looked out on the lights of the construction and traffic and I cried because I realised I hadn’t spoken to another soul for an entire day. With Rob flying across the globe, I had not opened my mouth to speak.

In November I was in Australia and Rob sent me a message. “I emailed the lady about the dogs.” I didn’t want to get my hopes up because I thought we wouldn’t get picked. These dog adoption people are serious, and their questionnaires make you doubt everything you knew about dogs. What if your answers are wrong? Why is it any of their business if you’re going to have children What if you aren’t meant to say you’ll crate the dog? What if you are meant to crate the dog…. What if they realise that you don’t really know what crating a dog entails??

He didn’t get a reply. Then he did get a reply. And we went to meet the dogs. We agreed to a trial adoption, and said that we would get our friend to help us with pick up the following day. Then the lady offered to bring them over that evening.

We went out that afternoon and stocked up on supplies: a tiny purple harness, a giant bag of kibble. I said, “If it doesn’t work out we will just sell it,” but we both knew that we wouldn’t be selling it.

I don’t think it’s too strong (too sappy, maybe) a statement to say that a gap in my heart has been filled. Something has been missing, and has now been replaced.

I feel better now that I have to leave the house every day, even if it’s just to walk around the block. I have spoken to more people in the last month than the five that came before. I have made new friends. I have stopped taking one of the pills that was supposed to keep me happy, and in fact, Rob says that I am happier now than I have ever been. I have these two idiots to keep me company, and wake me up at 2am for no reason, and bark at other dogs/plastic bags/people wearing hoodies whilst on the lead.

Life with dog is better than without.

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