As we progress as humans, more discoveries are being made about the emotional life of animals. Chimps are using Ipads to communicate with each other. Elephants weep. We no longer live in the age where any emotion put to an animal is instantly tagged as Anthropomorphism. They may not read Proust, but they experience joy, fear, just like we do.
Any pet owner will tell you this. We are not just making them into little humans; we know our four footers have feelings, and emotions, besides their natural instincts. We feel tremendous heartache when we lose them and they us. Stories have been written about their suffering, Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier from Edinburgh, a dog who returned to his master’s grave every day for 14 years is perhaps the most well known and romanticised. Just recently in China there was the story of Lao Pan, and his faithful dog. Pan lived in the village of Panjiatuan and died at the age of 68. His dog was his loyal companion. The villagers found the dog safeguarding Pan’s grave, not eating for seven days. The villagers started to bring the grieving dog food and water, and talked of building a shelter for the loyal friend. Dogs suffer when the lose love.
Dogs in particular inspire us. They make us laugh, they make us cry. Years ago I had my first heartbreak when I lost my first wire fox terrier Ayres at the young age of eight. His mother went on to live until she was fourteen. I resented that. Grief does that to you. You cling on to things that normally you would toss. I kept Ayres broken toys. I thought it was mad at the time, but I did it anyway, and I later came to terms that everyone deals with grief in his or her own way. Nothing is wrong and nothing is right. Love when lost is devastating. We need the numbness that comes with it just to survive and we do just that.
Ayres was a dog who lived his short life with unbridled passion. He was by all standards a difficult dog. He loved to start fights and walk away with a smile on his face. I learned a hundreds ways to say sorry. One time I left on a trip and returned home, so eager to see him. He had sat in sorrow by the front door for three weeks while I cavorted in Europe. When I came back. I expected him to jump into my arms with joy. He ignored me. He walked away from me. He turned his back to me. After a half hour of this punishment, there was a quiver in his tail. It exploded into a flood of love and forgiveness as he jumped into my arms. Such is the power of love.
I just found this little article published years ago, the newspaper faded yellow and brittle with age, in a box in the garage. Ayres was suddenly in front of me and a flood of tears came. From where? I have no idea. But…wiping them away I gave a worried Ted, a cuddle. I thought I would share it with you, here it is again…
p.s. Sorry Ted’s this one’s not about you.
Terrier Owner falls Victim to strategist.
Like the changing of the seasons, this ritual passes. I am in my beloved worn chair. The tea in my cup steams away, and I am just about to find out who murdered the butler. When through the pages of print, a pair of burning eyes penetrates. I know without looking up that they belong to my rough haired terrier, Ayres. He is attempting to stare me into submission, willing me mentally to open the back door.
I am perhaps too soft hearted, and put aside my book, and place my teacup gingerly down. I lifted myself from the warmth of the chair, the greatest struggle known to man, and open the door. Ayres, jumps for joy. He is free! He bounds outdoors and disappears in to a sea of grass. I close the door and return to the dreamy welcome of my tea and chair.
I have not yet put my lips to the now cooling tea when I hear a frantic scratching at the door. I stare hard at the print in the book, hoping that the noise will stop. The words on the page blur into visions of sales receipts and a dwindling chequebook, as the scratching speeds up its pace. Hardwood doors being expensive, I with an unflattering groan get up and reopen the door.
Ayres bounds in, smelling of sunshine and freshly dug earth. He eyes his dog bowl and looks at me with suspicion, yet I have already had my breakfast. He marches past me, tail carried high, with an odorous bone in mouth, He flops down to gnaw the bone, and I likewise to my cooling tea.
It is not long before the brown eyes are burning through my book. This time however they are accompanied by heavy persistent panting. I stare back at him. A foolish act of retribution. His gaze never wavers. Feeling foolish I once more open the back door. Ayres only looks out the door and the lays down in the doorway with great satisfaction. He glances back at me. One eye fixed on his dog bowl, the other studying me with mild curiosity. I prefer to believe him, the devoted loving dog, who can’t bear to be away from me, rather than the truth. Ayres the military strategist has found his ideal position to guard his food, from both sides of the door.
Awww…as I was reading this, my old collie gave me The Stare (she knows I’m a sucker for a “Please, Sir” Oliver Twist attitude). When I had let her out and just gotten back to reading about Ayres at your door, I heard frantic scratching at my own. I knew that collies are emotional resonators, but I now have to consider the possibility that mine is resonating not only with how I feel, but also with the characters I’m reading about!
I know a psychiatrist who brings his dog to work because she is able to treat patients with anxiety. Similarly, my collie is a therapy dog: her extra-long nose seems built to sniff out how people are feeling, to poke delicately in their emotional business and help them gain a happier perspective, to remind them that they are loved; being a herder, she also does group work, rounding up strays and holding the family together in a healthier dynamic. In her care, we are happy sheep. 🙂
P.S. That picture of Ayres was so sweet–made me want to go out and rent a Nick and Nora movie.
I just loved the video and the eyes closed. If I can’t see it I didn’t do it! lol!! Thanks for sharing that! Great laugh!
Lovely post: they are our companions, with their own foibles and their own strengths. And whatever would we do without them. Just loved the dogs in this. What characters.
Kate, I couldn’t imagine living life without them. It would be such an empty world!