Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Reasons to be cheerful: part 2

Do you remember the Ian Dury song which provides the title for this post?  I loved it, back in the day.

So I am going to take a series of blogs to celebrate the things that are helping me look to this day and today I am going to start with a dog.

A couple of weeks ago my son and daughter in law with their new baby daughter set off for a few weeks in Australia, visiting Katie's sister who has herself just had a new baby.  The sisters wanted to spend a little time together while their babies were small.  So Flora the black labrador came to stay up here for a month or so. She has been many times before, both on her own and with Chris and Katie, so she knows the ropes and quickly settles down.

I love her quiet, calm agreeableness.  Lie here, wait there, eat it, don't eat it, come, go?  Certainly she seems to say as with a wag of the tail and a quick upward look to check what you want she settles right to it.  Yet she retains all the joyousness which characterises the happy dog.  When I come downstairs each morning she is all happy wagging.  Going out to the field for a run and a toilet trip first thing in the morning is a new joy every day.  Every dish of food, the same old food which comes out morning and night, receives the same focussed and delighted attention.  If you leave it a bit late to feed her in the evening she sits quite close to you, staring at you with sad eyes, willing you to remember.


And every walk is wonderful, whether it is the regular walk from the door down the track to the river in the bottom of the valley or a new and exciting scramble up Moel Famau with younger daughter and her own lovely labrador.  Meeting Maddy is always a cause for joy, playing with Maddy's dog Bess is as giddily exciting today as it was yesterday.

It is harder to worry about the future (and my father is in my mind every day) when the dog tugs me back to the day.  And she is never gloomy or irritable.  She is always ready for a game of frisbee in the field or a tummy tickling session by the fire.  But there is something going on here which is more complex than the way a dog lives in the moment.  A couple of days after my mother died I went to stay the night with Chris and Katie.  I was not visibly upset but I was still barely keeping my head above water.  I needed to do a phone call before I sat down with them to eat.  Most unusually Flora came with me and lay at my feet while I talked to Ian, just quietly watching me or resting her head on my foot or leaning her warm body gently against my leg.  I could understand what felt like an animal form of empathy if she were my dog but it seemed extraordinary to me from a dog which wasn't even mine.  Men and dogs have lived together for thousands of years.  What a strange relationship.  What a sustaining relationship.


And oh the pleasures of a really big stick.

51 comments:

  1. I loved reading this post, Elizabeth. Flora is a beautiful dog and what a comfort she must be in this moment in time.

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  2. I grew up with black labs and love them to bits. And yes, they know just how you are feeling.

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    1. I have a particular fondness for labs, so intelligent and so responsive.

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  3. What a lovely dog. Lovely new header photo too.

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    1. Thank you. Not much sign of the sun today so the snowdrops are not holding their skirts out.

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  4. Thank you for this perspective :-)!

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  5. What a beautiful life affirming post Elizabeth, and what a lesson on living in the moment. So glad you are finding dog-sitting a source of comfort and delight.

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    1. I knew I would enjoy having her around but I did not expect to find quite so much pleasure in her company. And walking every day is good too!

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  6. Completely empathise with all of this (as always with you!). She looks a beautiful dog. They certainly tune into human feelings. My own dear Lily (a collie) knows exactly when I am down or troubled and always comes to me to offer some form of comfort or reassurance. What wonderful creatures they are.

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    1. I suppose that tuning into human feelings has helped dogs live alongside us for so long. There must have been benefits for both dogs and humans in the relationship. And yes, she is beautiful!

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  7. This is a wonderful post about a dog who is an effective representative of all dogs. A very sensitive animal, who reached out naturally and supported you. Someone who loves to play. Someone who enjoys meeting new people (and dogs).

    Makes me remember why I had a dog.

    Thanks you for sharing the stories.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!

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    1. I never know whether flora is representative of all dogs or particularly special!

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  8. I couldn't agree more Elizabeth. I am glad you have this canine company while things are feeling hard for you. xx

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  9. Flora looks gorgeous. Dogs are such wonderful companions at difficult times.

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    1. I don't think I have had this experience before. I grew up with dogs and had a totally daft dog when the children were younger. This dog is not daft, just gently, peaceably lovely.

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  10. I was thinking about you as I walked our dog this morning, and came home to this post. Wonderful things aren't they - even when you discover them eating your log-ins file...

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    1. How nice to know you were thinking of me. Odd really when we have never met but good nevertheless.

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  11. What a wonderful post. I have only just found your blog and will certainly be adding it to my list to follow. Animals haven't forgotten instinct as so many of us have and so they "know" things they cannot really know. We could learn a lot from them/

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    1. I wonder how much of their ability is in reading expression and body language? That explains how they might know we are unhappy or whatever but not why they seem to wish to keep us company when we do.

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  12. Elizabeth, how well you've written about this growing relationship between you and Flora. Surely, she must be delighted to be able to spend time with you, too.

    My own childhood dog memories are very sweet. It's been so many decades since I shared the company of such a delightful being. My NYC friends Elizabeth and Robert have a marvelous dog Buster, and I do so enjoy the times I can spend in Buster's company. (Buster even has a blog that is a delight for anyone who appreciates dogs' special qualities.)

    If I can ever make my own country dreams come true, a dog will be with me. Definitely.

    xo

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    1. I do hope you achieve your country dream Frances. You surely deserve to.

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  13. I have had dogs nearly all my life and can tell you that they do have healing powers and do empathise with humans, they are very spiritual beings. At the moment I am without a dog, still grieving but it gets easier each day. I am sure one day I shall have another.

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    1. It sounds as though you may be nearing the time that you want another dog cait. I imagine you have to take your time.

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  14. Just so relate to this in relation to loss...those wonderful eyes and the so strongly foreshortened caricature profile capture most hypnotically and yet so endearingly that unique cross-species communication......'something else going on' as you say ... no other explanation but amazing empathy connected through eons of shared adversities..Thank you, I have also experienced this canine 'tuning in' which brings great comfort and in the moment 'grounding' Chris in wet hills of Gwent

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    1. Eons of shared adversities - what a wonderful phrase!

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  15. One reason a dog can be such a comfort when you're feeling blue is that he doesn't try and find out why.

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    1. This is true! It is also good that because they cannot ask you why you don't expect them to!

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  16. Lovely, and wonderful. I have been wanting a dog for years, but I keep finding excuses not to get one. After your story, I am back on the fence again. I really should make a decision.

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    1. A dog is a life changing commitment. I think you are wise to take your time.

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  17. What a lovely dog. I know that Sophie (Golden Retriever/Lab) kept Doug going when his wife died. On the other hand it was my two cats that helped me when Max went into care.

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    1. We have had cats for years but they do relate in very different ways I think.

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  18. beautiful flora ♥
    I am partial to Black Labs ... we have been blessed to share our lives with 3. They are such lovely, family oriented dogs.

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    1. They are vey attached to their human pack aren't they?

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  19. Good evening Elizabeth!

    Another beautifully penned post. I'm new to this dog-loving lark which you describe so well. We've had our Gaspard, a Cavalier King Charles, for two years now and whilst I find him irritating for at least a few second every day I love him so very, very much.

    I've always been so fond of cats, their independent nature being, perhaps, one of their most winning features in my book, but after our last cat passed away after days of suffering I am so very relieved to own a dog who sticks by me like glue. Our cat was free to roam the vineyards which, unfortunately was her undoing. With Gaspard, however, we are free to roam together. I love walking alongside him. Always so eager.

    It often feels as though we are first-time parents with this dog of ours. I am fumbling my way through disciplining him. But, when he seems a little under the weather I follow him around like a shadow checking for any unusual behaviour until he bounces back and I breathe deeply, laughing at myself.

    Warmest wishes and thank you for those glorious snowdrops in your header!

    Stephanie

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    1. I like cats too and we have had cats for all our married life until the last one died a few months ago. For me though they were always an easier alternative to a dog while we worked and I in particular worked away from home. I don't mean that I didn't love them dearly (I hear the outraged cries of catlovers everywhere!) just that my first love is dogs. I would certainly keep this one if I could!

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  20. Hello Elizabeth. I enjoyed this post very much - something about the simplicity of the dog's joy - the simple pleasures. Our Rory is like Flora in his ability to know when one of us needs quiet company.
    I can't imagine home without a dog.

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    1. That is a lovely and very true phrase "the simplicity of a dog's joy"!

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  21. Thanks so much. Really made me know how much I miss having a dog. Not sure how that can be remedied for now, given how much we're away, but I'm thinking. . . . glad you're finding solace as you move through this first year of big loss. My mom will be gone a year at the end of March -- almost phoned her the other day to recommend "Call the Midwife" -- I know she once would have loved it.

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    1. Oh that bit of phoning touches a chord! I am very careful of not getting ambushed by the loss of mother but the other day I must have somehow dropped my guard and I found myself at the very beginning of feeling I needed to talk to her, just as if it had been a few days too long since we spoke.

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  22. Ah, that face and that look! We have had 3 yellow labs in our 22+ years of marriage, and, while I love our present apartment-sized dog (the Boston Terrier/French Bulldog mix,) I can't tell you how much how I am looking forward to getting our wise, patient, happy yellow lab back this summer after 3 long years. (I am saying this *before* trying to live with him in a small urban apartment with a postage-stamp-sized garden, of course!) Reading about the comfort (and walks) Flora has brought you in the past days reminds me very much of how I felt about my children after my father died. I was so happy to have their simple, loving, uncomplicated little selves to be involved with and to care for. Looking after someone who thinks you are the best thing in the world is good, gentle therapy, and a little bit of balm for the soul. xx

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    1. I can very much understand that looking after small children would be a balm, although I must confess I think looking after Flora is rather easier!

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  23. I remember , years ago after a funeral , a little girl coming and sitting next to me on the sofa and patting my hand . I think , just then , we both needed the company .

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    1. How lovely. It is the same thing isn't it, an instinctive recognition of the need of another for comfort?

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  24. Ah, the joy of having a labrador! This post was oh so familiar to me in every way, including the empathy (although I have a particular cat who knows unerringly when I'm upset and comes to sit very close to me on my lap, looking anxiously into my face). And the cats love our labrador too, despite the head-battering tail and the enormous wet tongue, both of which they have to endure!

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    1. I thought of you Rachel when I was writing this. Your Flossie looks so like Flora!

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  25. Oh, she's lovely and I'm glad she's bringing you some pleasure. Having a dog around brings a vital momentum into your life that you just can't ignore.

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  26. What a coincidence- I have just been reading about a black lab puppy in 'The Cloth Shed' blog! She sounds a lovely dog.Our cats always seem to know when somebody is ill or unhappy and sit especially close. It can be such a comfort when the hurt is too deep to talk about. I think the title is perfect- I too loved Ian Dury's song. I hope you have many cheeful moments over the coming weeks, despite your sadness.

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  27. I had a wonderful dog who came one night, and died too young, and Flora's eyes are just like his. I haven't thought I'd want a Lab, but if I could see those eyes again, it would make me very happy. Our Ben seemed to be part Lab/part German Shepherd, but Flora makes me think there was a lot of Labrador in him.

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