(I'm not a musician.) I was taught as a child that I must not 'blow my own trumpet' as in talking about myself – especially not to say anything good about myself. I was also taught that much of what I could say about myself was nonsense and I needn't expect anyone to believe it. If I myself believed it, I must be insane. If not, I was obviously a liar. Telling my story, therefore, became a very confronting task. I am now in my late seventies, as I begin this blog, and it is only a preparation – things I write on the way to writing the memoir.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Anecdotal Asides: Gigi and Lassie

The memoir excerpts on this blog are necessarily condensed, otherwise they’d go on and on forever. Also I am relating them to stages on the Heroic Journey, so as to have a structure to work with. (For many years, lacking a structure, I couldn’t even make a beginning on telling my story.)  
When I start remembering, all sorts of things come flooding back, which don’t seem to fit into the general narrative or would expand it too much for the parameters I’ve given it. Yet they seem like good stories, which perhaps my family and friends would like to read, if no-one else. 

Maybe I’ll weave them into the main narrative if that ever does become a book. Meanwhile, I thought I could add them here as discrete anecdotes.

Finding Gigi

Bill told me he was wanting a dog, and he heard about an old lady who had this beautiful German Shepherd she wasn't able to look after any longer.

He went to her house, got out of his car, and saw the dog in the yard. He looked over the fence, whistled to her and said,

‘What do think, sweetheart? Will you come with me?’

She took a flying leap over the fence, jumped into his embrace and started licking his face.

It was a done deal.


Losing Gigi

I wonder how old she was when Bill found her. I know she was fully grown, not a puppy. I would guess maybe three or four. I seem to remember that she was five when I first met her.

As I’ve told in the memoir, we didn’t keep her with us when we got together. Bill’s parents couldn't bear to part with her. He saw her daily at  work during the week, as his father used to bring her to whatever building site they were working on. 

Sometimes Bill brought her home to us for the weekend, but things were tense between her and my cat, so this didn't happen often.

She died some years later, from a heart attack. Bill blamed his parents for feeding her too many fatty tidbits – as they fed themselves. His mum was very fat; his father less so only because he always did a lot of physical work.

But he didn't reproach them. They had loved her and looked after her in what they thought was the best way. She had a happy life, within the average span for a Shepherd, and always knew she was loved.

About Lassie

Lassie, as I said in my last blog post, came to us via a young friend who was moving house and couldn’t take her. He wanted her to go to people who would love her.

At that point I was still a little scared of big dogs. Lassie proved the instant cure.

On her first evening with us, she was lying at our feet on the kitchen floor when my cat, Guinivere, walked into the room. Lassie, who had been peaceful until that moment, instantly went for the cat.

The cat dived under the kitchen table, which perhaps would not have protected her for long – except that, without stopping to think, I leapt out of my chair, grabbed the dog by the collar, hauled her off and clouted her across the snout, shouting, ‘Leave my cat alone!’

She did, then and forever after. And I realised I was braver than I’d imagined, given enough motivation.

Guinevere clearly knew she was now off limits, and felt free to torment the dog. She did sweet things like lying in wait on top of the table, and as Lassie walked past she’d jump on her back, rake her claws along it and then jump back up on to the table in one swift, easy sequence. She did not respond to orders to leave the dog alone!

But then Lassie was hit by a car out the front of our place one day, got a broken leg, and spent a few days at the vet’s. She came home with a leg in plaster and a bucket around her head. 

Guinevere approached her, they touched noses, and then appeared to commune telepathically for a little while. I could imagine Guinie saying, ‘Whatever happened to you?’ and Lassie having a bit of a whinge about it. After that, they were the tenderest of friends, often having a chinwag and at times even curling up together. There were no more attacks by either on the other; you’d think such things could never have happened.

Despite our first encounter, Lassie and I became dear friends. This was also in spite of a power struggle over her food. Peter had told us she should have a mutton flap every day, boiled to tenderness. The first time I did this, which took a long time and made the kitchen smell, Bill declared it ridiculous and said I should feed her raw meat. He got her a juicy big bone.

‘Look,’ I said next day, ‘She hasn't touched her food. I’ll have to do what Peter said.’

‘Don’t you dare,’ said Bill. ‘Put it in the fridge overnight and give it to her again tomorrow.’

The next morning, again, she turned up her nose at it. Bill insisted I persevere. The third day she fell on it and gorged! Thereafter, she happily ate her meat raw.

She was a gentle, motherly soul. When I had children, she loved them as if she was their mother, and was very protective. This had its disadvantages.

As they got older, if I told them off for doing things they shouldn’t, she would place herself between me and them and give me a soft, warning growl. I didn't for a moment think she would ever hurt me, but sometimes it gave me pause to wonder if I was speaking too harshly to them and moderate my tone.

She was also highly intelligent. Not only did she show this in the usual doggy ways; I could sit and have long talks to her and she would gaze into my eyes giving me the distinct impression she understood it all – or at least understood what I was feeling. She mothered me too, e.g. coming to fetch me if she thought I was sitting up too late writing my poetry, and indicating clearly that I should go to bed now. She wasn't wrong!

She was the whole family’s dog, but perhaps mine most of all. I was the one who spent the most time with her, and most often did the care and feeding.

She lived with us a long time. Calculating it as best I can now, I think it must have been about 13 years – and she wasn’t a puppy when we got her. Eventually she succumbed to age; it became obvious she was struggling to cope with life. 

She was tired all the time, her breathing was laboured, and it was an effort for her to move. It was Spring. I didn't want her to endure the summer heat in her condition. I said we needed to take her to the vet to be put down. Bill and the kids were absolutely unwilling to accept this idea, but I was adamant and eventually persuaded them that it was what would be best for her. (I have a ruthless streak when I need it.)

We thought she would like to see Peter again before she went. We hadn’t seen him for quite a while, but we got in touch, told him what was happening, and invited him over. He came and spent an evening with us. Afterwards he thanked us for doing that for him. We didn't contradict him, but it wasn’t him we did it for; it was Lassie.

 We had various animals over the years, most eventually left us, and we’d usually experience some ghostly manifestations for some little time afterwards, gradually becoming less frequent. That didn't happen with Lassie.

What did happen was that one night, some years after her death, I was sitting up late one night, when something made me turn around from my desk. There in the doorway of my study, I saw Lassie walking in as of old, looking at me meaningfully to tell me it was past time I was in bed. She was right, as always.

I didn't feel spooked, but peacefully glad to see her and full of love. The interesting thing was that – as ghosts are often described – I could both see her and see through her.

When she saw that I had got the message, she quietly vanished.


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I am a cat person, as everyone knows, but that doesn't mean I can't love and appreciate dogs too.


5 comments:

  1. Oh, boo-hoo, such sweet stories, ending, as all dog stories do, with the death of these loving beings. I envy you seeing her in the doorway after. I would so love to see my wonderful dogs again.

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  2. i like it this way better than a book, it's like people get to know you, like they are having coffee and a conversation and you relate a tale from the past. It's much more personal. Think it's the way to go right now. Just sayin. ;)

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  3. I wish you would start a patreon page tho not like mine, more as it's supposed to be used..as a tip jar! Check out some vids on youtube about it. So it can be like $2 a month tip from happy readers to help you continue.

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