Black Dog Arriving

On paper my life has been through a bit, in the last three months. 2014 ended with an accident. 2015 began with a death. Another member of the family is gravely ill. Tucked around the loss and worry have been the more everyday life-hitches: Eskom load shedding, Telkom incompetence, a burst water pipe (again, and again, and again), an employee breaking a leg, a minor operation (me), a stomach bug (child)… The physio keeps strapping me up and sending me back out there, like a coach during a game. So it goes, Kurt Vonnegut would say.

The morning after the death, husband and I sat side-by-side, bleary eyed and stunned while a waitress brought our drinks. We were at a rest stop outside Swellendam, facing their picturesque mountains. In an adjoining field, our dog, Orwell, joyfully ran, delighted to be travelling with his family. His bliss was so great you could practically hear Born Free playing as he romped. Smiles crept across our weary faces. I said to Husband, ‘Really glad we brought the dog.’

Then we returned from the wake and Orwell fell into his post-holiday-with-other-dogs-slump. So it goes…

Between the accident and the wake a friend dropped by. After saying what is said in these times, the conversation wandered into the more everyday. He mentioned he had started volunteering at the SPCA. He regaled us with his humorous encounters with dogs that would never suit our family. Then he paused. ‘I probably shouldn’t tell you this…’ But he did. A blind Labrador puppy. ‘The thing is,’ he said, ‘You’d never know at first that she’s blind.’

And my ears perked up. Labrador is the right size to be a friend to Orwell. Blind dog might not try to usurp our un-Alpha-but-still-like-being-in-charge dog. And he really needs a friend because every time we return from holiday that involves other dogs, he goes into a slump. Plus a blind dog would probably be less likely to catch a chicken while we train her not-to-chase-the-hens. But this was not the time to get a second dog. We were still travelling back and forth on a moment’s notice, hoping death would be held at bay. She’ll be adopted by the time life has calmed.

She was still there.    

I could tell you all the reasons people told me not to get another dog. The list is long and their objections are sound. I could tell you all the reasons people say you should never adopt a blind dog, too, as many were eager to share their thoughts. But there are times when decisions don’t make sense on paper. I wanted a dog. I can take care of a dog. As I told my father during a recent telephone conversation, ‘Everyone keeps telling me not to over do it, until they want something, like dinner and laundry to be done. If life is going to be this busy and this chaotic, I’d like for some of this crazy to be for good reasons.’

Because the truth of the matter is, when your health limits your physical capabilities the greater world can forget about your need to participate in fun. Unintentionally, these caring souls try to make my life even smaller than it needs to be. You could just watch. Be careful! Are you sure you should? Oh, please take the kids to school and activities. You want to what? You might get hurt! Is dinner ready? Have you seen my shirt?

Hey, if I’m going to hurt, it would be nice to be hurting because I love dogs, and not because of the damn dishes. And let me be the first to say, my most debilitating injuries I’ve suffered in the last four years were all acquired while doing not-fun-things! Like saving a child from poor traffic choices. Necessary, but not fun.

Almost two weeks ago I went to the SPCA and asked to see their kennels. I told them I was cautiously interested in a second dog. I did not, however, inquire about a specific one. I stood there and examined them all, and there was one dog – more than any other – that tracked me as I walked around. This puppy was alert, energetic and showed promise of intelligence and was sweet as any dog lover could want. So then I brought Orwell to see what he thought. Then the kids. And then a few days after that, the black dog arrived.

Her name is Ziva. She’d like you to know she gets around fine, all on her own, thank you very much. That how a dog copes with a disability depends on the dog. Her presence has yanked Orwell out of his mope-slump and is keeping me from losing perspective in this current circus called 2015. Playing with my dogs is the ultimate stress relief.

And every day since I brought her home I’ve thought of Ella, from This Day. How throwing your energy into devoted, loyal companions keeps the beast at bay.  If our characters have future lives, may Ella be blessed with a dog – or two.

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Originally posted 25 February, 2015 on Books Live.

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