This morning as I walked down the street on the way to another day of burying myself in Hamilton and dealing with ABS (queue sound of teeth grinding), a big black shape appeared in the corner of my vision. I looked down and saw it walking along beside me. I see that shape quite often. It always makes me smile, in a wistfully longing kind of way. In my apartment, lying on the sofa. In my summer house, running past me in the kitchen or jumping onto the bed. No, I don’t need my eyes checked, I know there’s nothing there. And I’m not going crazy, I know what the shape it.
It’s a dog.
It’s the dog that I had and had to say goodbye to. It’s the dog I will have in the future. It’s the big black Labrador who waits patiently for me while I try and get together a life that can have him in it.
I need a dog in my life. When I don’t have one, part of me feels like it’s lost. The more time goes by, the more keenly I feel it. I pounce on all my friends who have dogs, I drag my son out of bed on a Sunday morning and drive for miles to go for long walks with them on the beach or through the woods.
There is no dog in our lives because when he was younger my son was never interested in animals. It never seemed fair to bring something into our lives that would need so much time and love if he did not want it. Not fair to him. Not fair to the dog. Now he’s older and he’s changed his mind. When I saw him run around my friend’s garden for hours playing with her dog and its friends, I knew he was ready.
He’s like me, he likes big dogs. My parents have always had small dogs with aggressive tendencies and all he’s ever heard is, ‘Careful, don’t take his toy. He bites. Don’t put your hand down to him.’ In his position, I wouldn’t have liked dogs much either. Until Snow (my friend’s white shepherd) came into our lives, the only dog he ever spoke of fondly was Maxime, the black lab we had when he was born. (Named after Robespierre.) The one I had to say goodbye to. The one lying like a big black dragon next to my son in what is possibly his ugliest baby picture.
Unfortunately we now live in an apartment where dogs are not allowed. And I’m not moving again! At least, not right now.
But the big black shape is still there, right at the edge of my vision. If you’re a dog lover, you know what I mean. A dog can give you something nothing else can. A dog doesn’t question you, doesn’t judge you, a dog simply loves you. It’s the unconditional love that comforts by a head resting in your lap or a lick on your nose. The joyful greeting you get every time you come home. The long walks exploring new territories. The constant presence in your life, reminding you that you have something so beautiful and so trusting.
That’s worth getting up early for a walk along a cold beach. No one says you can’t bring coffee.