I’ve been caught up in between worlds these last few weeks – the worlds of back pain, Easter chocolate and that of my characters, as I put my final touches to my manuscript. I’m not the best multi-tasker, so I find it difficult to tackle other writing projects when I’m so invested in these four people that are evolving daily.
But as the Easter holiday period wraps up, I know I owe you something – however trivial. So as this event marks a rebirth, I decided to mark my respects with the story of the birth of our third child.
I’d never had a dog as a child, although an assortment of pets – mad cats, fish and a tortoise that ran away, weren’t fit enough to survive in our house – which is why I always suspected that a dog might be one step too far in terms of responsibility. Added to which, I was highly anxious about them. I was that person who gagged when a friend’s dog jumped up at me – and they always did because they smelled the fear.
Two things changed my view. One was that the old man has always been an animal freak – far more relaxed in the company of dogs than our children – and as I watched his interactions with friends’ dogs over the years, and saw how they calmed him and diminished his stress levels, the idea became more appealing. The second reason was that I thought a pet, another being to love Kurt unconditionally and perhaps become his best friend, would help him feel better about himself.
The conception of The Princess was a long and arduous one. I did my research, changed my diet, took iron pills and went through other invasive medical interventions I still can’t talk about. And I’ll admit that at one point I began to waver in my decision…until my brother paid us a surprise visit in Sydney.
“Impulsivity” has a tendency to run through our family – rather like a sharp razor through the winter hair on my legs – so perhaps I shouldn’t have been that surprised when I mentioned the idea of the dog and he dragged me straight to the closest pet shop to pick NC and Kurt’s new sister – a female of the ‘oodle variety; the cutest and sleepiest.
I don’t think the old man ever believed I’d actually commit to the dog idea and so he was fairly indifferent to The Princess for those first few weeks. Obviously, she wasn’t the stereotype of what he considered to be “man’s best friend”, and I know he worried about turning up at the dog park on Saturday afternoons, beer in one hand and this blonde ball of fluff in the other, tethered to a shocking-pink lead. Yet she wormed her way into the rest of the family’s affections within minutes – the cute stack down the steps living room probably helped – and within days we were fighting over who would pick up her perfect, pint-sized poos – the ones that usually landed with stealth bomber accuracy on my brand new rugs.
She is has since reigned at the top of the pecking order, and each of us fight for her love and approval. She is the best spooner, the best hot water bottle in winter, the best therapist, vacuum cleaner and incentive for exercise. She is also great to dress up. Our main criteria for holidays homes now is that they are pet-friendly, and she drives shotgun all the way.
Training…not so much, although she will sit or lie down if we make it worth her while.
At the grand age of eight – which is fifty-six in dog years – and still spritely, she is often mistaken for a puppy (much to her disgust) – even though she is developing into a willful, middle-aged woman who gets crabby when she’s tired, is easily distracted, forgetful and rather partial to long naps with her dad most afternoons. So we have a lot in common. She tells us now when she’s had enough – a good lesson for Kurt, whose switch off button has always been temperamental.
And did I mention the best part about having a dog? It’s that they can talk. Over time, this lovable little mutt has developed a voice in our house, which is used (and abused), to say those things that we want to say to each other, but know we shouldn’t.