For the Love of Dog – again (*).

By Emma Pearson

April 20, 2024

Photos my own, taken this week, February 2024

16 February 2024

Confession: I have whole and complete, two-way conversations with myself. Sometimes it’s all in my head. Sometimes I talk out loud. Usually after I have been up a little while but am not yet in full-on work mode. Puttering around in the bathroom or bedroom, for example, before heading downstairs.

Perhaps it’s a result of living alone (-ish), and needing more company. It could be a form of self-therapy. It might also-sometimes be some random need for righteous justification. I am but human, not always humane.

No worry. It’s invariably harmless. Only the pets hear me rabbit away if I do verbalise out loud.

This morning, as my mind goes to my departure in a couple of days to spend a week near-with my parents, I found myself having a two-way conversation with a relative. No matter which one – it could be a number of them. Someone with whom I have a good relationship. Someone who was curious but rather non-understanding about my decision NOT to stay with my parents this time, but instead rent an Airbnb in the next village. The (totally imaginary) conversation went along these lines:

Relly: But why aren’t you staying with your parents? Why are you staying in an Airbnb?

Em: Well – various reasons. It’s an experiment, and it’s an experiment that has lots of potential upsides. I think it will be better for me and my mum to have some space as well as presence. We trigger one another after some days (or even hours) and it’s not good for either of us. AND she doesn’t want Black, and I am increasingly loath to leave him. I’ve had great luck with pet sitters, but it’s all still a lot of time and organisation. I interview them, select one, collect them from wherever, make them a decent dinner, orient them to the house and the neighbourhood, and if time, take them on a walk with the dog. Then when I get back, I take them back to a station or wherever… Not to mention cleaning and making and unmaking beds. It’s work, it’s time, it’s effort. It’s a lot just for being away for a week. Fine for longer holidays, but a lot for a week. The cat is self-sufficient. The cat gets fed automatically. The cat doesn’t need taking out on walks. And the neighbours gladly pop in to check he’s okay and sneak a cuddle. But the dog? Well, I want him with me. I want to be with him. He’s old now. I don’t know how much more time I have with him – I keep expecting this to be his last year. He’s in great health for an old dog, and I want to enjoy time with him. Other people can’t get him out on walks and runs like I can. Plus I love him. I really love him. He’s my dog. And he’s so much more than that. He’s Mike. He’s Julia. He’s Ben and Megan. He’s a series of au pairs. He’s my life from before, when this house was full and complete and noisy and I had conversations with other human beings. He’s my past. And I love him. So there.

And I sat on the edge of the bed, wrapped my arm around Black’s snoozing body, and leaned into breathe in his warm Blacky smell, stroking the super soft fur on his head with both hands, gently scrunching the looser skin behind his neck, nuzzling into his floppy soft ears and telling him how much I love him.

What a good dog he’s been. An amazing family dog. A comfort to Julia as she lay down and wrapped herself around the full length of his body on what was her last day alive. An amazing and loyal companion. In times of 6 bipeds in the house, or just one. A reason to get up and out of bed every single day.

So there we have it.

(And, since taking Black means I will now drive rather than take the train, I also get to take my cello, and so will be able to play some cello-piano duets with my dad. More missings from my past life. More memory-making for the future).

(*) I have used the blogpost title “For the love of dog” before. It’s the only title that truly works. And what I wrote back in 2019, months after Julia died, with a dog four years younger than now, feels so fresh.

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