In July, just after the first lockdown my family and I took a day trip to the east coast for a seaside excursion. As many others had also had the same idea, we tried to social distance on the beach. My mother who was recovering from a major operation was acutely aware of the many dogs barking. My brother, who’d recently returned from Australia because of our mum’s health and the world pandemic situation was loving observing the dog. He made quips about how great it would be to be one, have one, just generally loving the idea of dogs. Whilst I, on the other hand couldn’t think of anything worse. Mainly, I think because we got a little dog when the boys were still too small to assist in the responsibility of it all and it tipped me over the edge. However, even before that, the sculptor and I had a doberman for about 6 months until the sculptor was in a car crash and I was heavily pregnant. I managed a few months more but I think he was nine or ten months old, we made the sad decision to re-home, Troy (and he was our second doberman also but that’s a whole other story). So, for me I was never going to have a dog again. Tried and failed. I think for me there is a big fear of failure but I am learning late in life that failure is a very very important and crucial element to success. Also, I wonder if I was rather conscious of ‘what other people would think’, again, learning that my people-pleasing traits have down sides.
So, how by August did we end up with a six month old doberman pup? I am pretty sure it had something to do with the Harlequin collection which the sculptor created, made and completed during lockdown. A collection of five mystical, whimsical, imaginative creations. A product of the time we are in? A reflection of madness, mask wearing, dream like, bizarre fantastical creations. I have just featured Dream Catcher IV in this post as I think he was the culprit!
I certainly think the sculptor starting imagining having a creature wandering around along side him. The boys and their father have continually discussed when and how they would get a dog; breeds and training. I remained ever hopeful that this was just all creative talk! So when they proposed the idea in July I said a vehement ‘no’. I wasn’t on board. It didn’t seem to deter their plans. I felt immediate upset, that I was being put in this position. Felt that my opinions were not being heard. I felt overwhelming sadness which quickly turned to anger and then resentment. My youngest, in persuasion told me to “open my heart and take a leap of faith”. My eldest in consolation told me that they had heard my point of view but that didn’t necessarily mean I had to have it my way. This was an interesting learning curve for me about vocalising my opinion, being heard, being understood but not necessarily getting your own way or being ‘right’. Not that there was a right or wrong in this situation but it did feel like three against one!
So I did a lot of journaling. I took a 6 week meditation course. I breathed in and out. Try it! I learnt a lot. Perhaps, stemming right back to when I was nine years old, we moved house to a new county, started a new school, my brother was born and my dog died all in the space of about five months. Sometimes the way we look at life is governed by our early experiences which lie buried in the subconscious. “History is the fiction we invent to persuade ourselves that events are knowable and that life has order & direction”, Bill Watterson
The doberman (who the boys had decided to name, Troy again) arrived very early Monday morning at the beginning of August he mirrored all of my emotions. Bewildered, confused, scared, tired, shocked, displaced and I watched and observed as my boys took on the challenge in excitement and lapped up the responsibility of having a very large pet. I left them to it. Dogs it would seem have different personalities and this new doberman just didn’t fit into the name of Troy, so we named him the name he’d arrived with with; Kalvin with a ‘K’. The appropriately named cartoon ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ by Bill Watterson, has many quotes that seem to fit my relationship journey with this dog, Kalvin.
I ticked along a little bit but then had a bit or a relapse. All the emotions came up again and I questioned the story. But we all have choices, in each moment. In decisions we make and emotions we choose to carry. We can either focus on dwelling in the past, or in an imagined future and over think or we can focus on acceptance and learn from any situation. In wasting time thinking about the what ifs and the whys we can often hinder our progress. Over analysing gets us nowhere. Srikumar Rao says, “Think of the universe as a benevolent parent. A child may want a tub of ice cream and marshmallows, but a wise parent will give it fruits and vegetables instead. That is not what the child wants, but it is what the child needs.”
So I focused on what I was being given. The positives were we had family days out in the summer days of August and September, we started going to bed earlier, getting up earlier and the boys have their own little independent time walking the dog together in the evenings.
Then, of course, one of the reasons I had not wanted to have a dog, came quickly round to see how well I could cope. My serving of vegetables ( not sure this analogy works with me as I love veg). Anyway, my husband’s exhibition in Egypt suddenly was able to go ahead with little lead time and he left for just over 2 weeks in October for, ‘Motherland’, which I have just written about.
The challenges we face in life are often our greatest teachers but it is so often hard to see it at the time. The two weeks for me felt like I regressed into survival mode. My first walks out alone with ‘the boys’ doberman’ were hesitant, I was nervous and I projected it. I kept explaining to other dog walkers that I was just looking after him whilst my husband was away. “I wondered, is it better to do the right thing and fail or is it better to do the wrong thing and succeed?” Bill Watterson
After Kalvin had arrived I was talking with another Mum at football who said they’d re-homed their first dog which made me realise that perhaps it is more common than I thought. We didn’t necessarily ‘fail’ at have a family pet the first time but the conditions weren’t right for us at that point in time and the personality of the dog we had hadn’t helped. I felt that by the end of intensive two weeks together that I grew in confidence and we are slowly becoming friends. However, I was shattered when the sculptor returned and was relieved. I continue to enjoy our autumnal walks and I try to relax watching the boys play and train their dog.
It can be hard as mothers to reclaim time for ourselves. A resurrection of remembering what makes us individual, aside from the role we play within the family, particularly as a mother but it is so important for identity and self-development, for ourselves and for our children. “We all have different desires and needs, but if we don’t discover what we want from ourselves and what we stand for, we will live passively and unfulfilled.” Unearthing why I didn’t want a dog enabled me to find what I did want. So many things but some of them include, freedom, nature and exercise and having a dog certainly encourages rather than prohibits all of that. So I am leaning towards the bright side. It’s a journey but such a good healing tool.
“You know what’ s weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change but pretty soon….everything is different.”