Reflections on being a Dog-owning Writer: The first Term Break

Easter has come and so has Spring. British weather never exactly ‘blooms’ into sunshine as such – the rain is an ever-persistent hindrance – but at least the sun is coming out and when it does, everything is beautiful.

Things I & II have had their Easter break from school and, while it is lovely to really, properly be able to enjoy their company again, it has somewhat cocked up the routine Asha and I had begun to develop. We’ve not been getting up as a family to have breakfast with just me and Asha left in the house by 8 o’clock and no one to disturb until either Wifey or the Things return somewhere around 5 in the afternoon. Instead, I’ve been allowing the kids to sleep in until 9 but then monitored their routine (Thing II, you may recall, has ADHD and he – like myself – doesn’t do well ‘left to his own devices’). That sounds all well and good but my writing routine has already been well-reduced with looking after a puppy and now it has suffered more with trying to organise three of us and not just one.

On top of that, we’ve had lots of visits from friends all over the country (and one from Germany we’ve not seen for 20 years!). It has been really, really lovely to see them but the flip side is deadlines for editors being pushed more and more to the edge. I’ve just about kept on track but it has been hard.

Easter is, for Christians, a time to celebrate death – that of the Son of God – and I’ve been hit by many deaths of recent. Not physical ones, thought they feel like it, but metaphorical. A death of trust; a death of confidence in myself and others; a death of friendship; a death of belief in humanity; a death in belief that friends won’t try to hurt one another. It sounds quite gloomy all that doesn’t it? And it is, if I’m honest; I won’t lie. In some ways I feel more like a ghost than a living person.

But Easter is also a celebration of life and resurrection for Christians – both of the believer and the Son of God – and there is new life in me too. Some friendships have perhaps died off but others have been renewed. Several come to mind but there’s one friend in particular from my teenage years who recently I’ve been back in touch with and chat to every day on Facebook who has been a real blessing. I can’t believe we lost touch for more than 20 years (we briefly re-connected just before I moved to Bangladesh but then lost it again) but it feels very much like we’re as good friends now as we were back when we were kids. I treasure such people.

There’s no doubt that Asha was a timely gift to us, to me; a gift from above if you’re that way inclined. While our routine has been disrupted we have added new, beneficial aspects. As I write this, Asha is now sleeping on the rug in my study rather than in the kitchen. We have reached a point where I can begin working again at my table with my books and music around me rather than imprisoned in the kitchen, crammed on to the edge of an already full-to-overflowing table.

Asha’s walks have also extended and regular trips down to the beach first thing in the morning are a part of our routine we both love. She loves to run and bounce and play with total freedom; I love to listen to the waves and contemplate what I will write today with the knowledge that she will flake out, back at home, for a couple of hours completely exhausted allowing me to then actually do the writing previously contemplated.

Sleep is important with Asha because it’s the only time her toileting is consistent. She never soils her cage at night and she can sleep during the day for several hours without a worry. But once she’s awake, you have to watch her like a hawk because she pees everywhere all the time. She’ll be 16 weeks this coming Saturday and all the training manuals and websites seem to indicate that a bitch can’t hold her bladder reliably until this time. I hope that works like clockwork for Asha because it is driving us mad right now. The books have been wrong that she will gradually ‘get it’ as time goes on. She’s no better now than when we first had her. The wees can be further apart but they’re much bigger, that’s all.

That’s partly been the issue with having the Things here. When it is just me and the dog I take her out to our courtyard to ‘do wee wee’ every 30 minutes she’s awake (and straight after she wakes up from a nap). When the kids have her (so I can get some urgent work done) they tend to forget about her and we find wees and poos all over the place. At least now she is going properly on her walks. For a long while she would hold on until we got back home and then go inside.

It is really very irritating that she hasn’t got the toilet training. We even have a bell on the door which she can ring to say she wants to go outside but she started using it to get to play outside which wasn’t the idea at all. We have to get that sorted soon. It’s odd because otherwise she’s brilliant at learning commands.

She ‘sits’ and ‘goes down’ on command very well now though she sometimes circumvents the former and heads straight to the latter so I’m now training her to ‘sit’, ‘go down’, ‘sit’, ‘go down’ etc., a few times before getting her treat. We’re also going to train her to ‘roll over’ soon too. It has no practical value but it will be as cute as anything!

Today, on the beach, I taught her to ‘stop’ whatever she’s doing however far away and then ‘sit’ exactly where she is. She got that idea almost instantly which shows how clever a pup she can be. The next step is to call her to come from afar (which she does for most of the time) and then ‘stop’ halfway through coming back. Basically, I want to know that wherever she is, whatever she was doing at the time, she will instantly stop and sit when commanded. I think she will get there – if I don’t kill her first.

And if she doesn’t kill herself first too. Yesterday I took her for a walk and she did a poo on what has to be the narrowest path in the area. As I bent down to clear up her ablutions she leapt out partly on to the road, held back only by the lead in my hand but out far enough that both times passing cars had to brake for fear a puppy was about to run under their wheels. She wouldn’t have done – the lead is too short to allow that – but it was too alarming for drivers to allow that to happen again. I can’t say I was very happy with her, to say the least.

The kids go back to school on Monday and I will miss them despite the disruptions. Human company, even if doing its own thing in another room, is still company and I treasure my family. They really are the only people left in the world who I trust and believe in still. It is ironic that they are also the ones who bear the brunt of my stresses and my depression and so must feel the most unloved of all the people who are dear to me. It’s funny how we hurt those we love. That’s something I’m having to relearn: how to show people I love them. My fear though, is that this dog is simply far too old for that trick.

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About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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One Response to Reflections on being a Dog-owning Writer: The first Term Break

  1. Love this! Especially the last paragraph🙂

    Like

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