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The Princess is in the proverbial doghouse this week, due to an over-exaggerated limp that sent us into a state of panic, then suddenly disappeared at the vet.

Marking Our Territory In Middle Age

Photo courtesy of The Princess and one Greenie.

Incredibly, she still manages to fit in at least fifteen wees during her new, reduced walks that were advised by the vet.

Karma. Just sayin.

Why do dogs feel the need to mark their territory so often?

Apparently it’s to do with marking their dominance or to ease their anxiety – the latter in the case of the Princess, I suspect.

It’s not so hard to understand. We humans like to mark out our territory as well, if that can be defined as feeling accepted or fitting in. Perhaps the more direct, in-your-face approach of dogs, might not go down too well at the school gates or in a new job, but isn’t one of the purposes of life to leave our mark, whether we do it through our careers, our kids or our actions of philanthropy?

In terms of marking his territory socially, the old man has always claimed that he doesn’t need friends (or a wife for that matter) and after thirty years together, I tend to believe him. He has always been a Grinch when it comes to socializing, and it is only with some belated maturity and an increase in his whisky consumption that he has finally accepted his fate of being married to a try-hard socialite and the need to compromise.

It does pain me to know that he would be happier in an isolated world of golf on tv (and just about every other sport ever to grace the Foxtel sports package – ice-skating excluded), ready-made meals and a studio apartment.

He has a very different idea to me about what he judges as ‘fitting in’. I remember when we first moved to a small village in England, fifteen or so years ago, how he lived for the moment our local publican would finally welcome him by his first name each time he walked into the pub.

We all secretly crave some recognition or some meaning to our existence.

After two years in our current suburb – having doubled their turnover, I imagine – the owner of our favourite Japanese restaurant now welcomes the old man by his first name, and my husband, upon whose face a smile is rarely raised, struggles to conceal the satisfaction that brings him.

He has marked his territory in this world via his avid consumption of raw fish.

One of the great things about getting older is that marking new territory becomes less important. That may be due to a greater inner confidence and wisdom, or the serenity created from realising that no-one is indeed ‘better’ than us, or because we have less energy to go to every party we’re invited to because of the physical effects of ageing, anyway.

There is something very smug about reaching that point in our lives.

It’s when we finally find the confidence to let go of people we don’t fully connect with; to turn down invitations we know we’ve been invited to, solely to boost numbers; to not beat ourselves up when friends disappoint us, and instead calmly walk away; and to not feel disempowered by the success of our peers.

For the truth is, the only territory worth marking, the only tree worth pissing against, is the small tree whose trunk contains the people we truly care about and who truly care about us, whose branches bloom more colourfully with each year and whose roots deepen with age.

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