The bit about the dog


Since a time we can refer to as well-before-Shakespeare, animals have been thespians. I speak of a time when people with harps and funny hats roamed the earth. Animals were the comic relief. Put a cat in silly shoes or get a juggling dog on stage. (Today, I thank all the gods for CGI.)

The Pet would never have had time for such frivolity. The Pet, you see, is the centre of what I call home. The Pet is what you might refer to as a dog. In a house full of cats and a couple of humans, his role is as exacting as it is delicate. His life is a balancing act.

Thirteen years ago, a small golden dog ambled into my gallery. I tried a bit to unearth a possible owner. Then, thinking my house unsuitable, I tried for a much longer stretch to find him a good home.

Between no-owner-found and looking-for-respectable-parent, I took him to the vet. She saw the look in my eyes and prepared herself for the worst. I gushed. I slobbered. I was positively poetic about the wonder of the pup.

All ending with, “And isn’t he just gorgeous?”

My vet is a fine human, and one of the reasons for this is her unfailing honesty.

“Don’t make me lie to you, Anu,” she said, “He is not cute.”

I was appalled. She had failed me. She was not perfect. How did she not see his wonderfulness?

Three months later all doggly things have been acquired. The home-hunt has been abandoned. He is now my dog. Return visit to the vet is due. We are greeted with, “Now you looking like people!” as we’re barely through the door.

My vet then gives me an all-purpose boof: who was I kidding looking for a home? It was obvious from the start this dog was for me. Just look at when I brought him in – that was a sight only a mother could love.

At 13, he is easily the most grown-up person in the house. The most reliable, the kindest, certainly the best-tempered. In the past, when I’ve written about having something akin to a UN peacekeeping dog, you may have thought I was exaggerating. Or writing for comic effect. ‘Twas neither.

When cats take to squabbling, he gets in between them and starts a great carrying-on until they stop. Never touches them. Ditto humans. If cats or dogs in the street are making a ruckus late o’clock, this son of mine will leave our bed, go down the stairs, down the slope, and stand at the gate and scream into the night. He will do this for what turns out to be a surprisingly brief period and then there is silence.

If you didn’t know him, you’d think he was just another dog joining fracas. But no, he simply cannot abide discord. He chases birds so the cats can’t kill them. He chases the Cats’ Father and me so we don’t kill each other.

There are few days on which my world does not feel like some category of storm. At the very least we are always on severe weather alert. This is a house of too many feelings. Too spirited. Too much of a muchness. That’ll happen if the number of cats you have exceeds one. Ditto humans.

I hear I’m usually good in a crisis. It turns out that is true up to the point at which the Pet is involved.

When he was about three, he disappeared. Vanished. Three, four, five, a million days. (It was five.) And I did nothing. I called one friend and two arrived. Every day, before and after work, they drove the main and side streets of my neighbourhood in search of him.

I sat in a chair. I did not cry or scream. Or help. I had shut down completely.

Then he was found. He was in someone’s yard. Suddenly, I was alive again. Crimes of trespass were committed. The reunion was tearful. The fear of security cameras nil. My boy was back.

All these years later he is no mere boy, but the strong and steady presence of what my friends cruelly call Zoo de Anu.

And he has something all my mothering could never give: he has a brother. From the moment they locked eyes, before the Cats’ Father grew into his name, they saw something in each other. And they’ve been inseparable ever since.

PS: He’s not called the Pet because he’s someone on a leash. It’s, well, a pet name.

Remember to talk to your doctor or therapist if you want to know more about what you read here. In many cases, there’s no single solution or diagnosis to a mental health concern. Many people suffer from more than one condition.


"The bit about the dog"

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