At the age of fourteen, she came to live with me.
“What is your name?” I asked her gently, not expecting a response.
Not meeting my eyes, she cowered from me. She was petrified. Irrespectively I pulled her into my arms.
“I don’t know what was done to you beforehand, but just know from me you will only receive love,” I whispered softly above her head.
And that is how the bond between Perdita, my wire haired dachshund, and I began.
She was two years old when I met her, which in dog years is 14. She was such a frightened little mite. Whenever I used to come home and walk into the lounge, her tail would wag madly but she would flinch and cower from me. She had been abused and left on a little dust road in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately she was found and taken to the SPCA. And that was how this enormous blessing entered my life.
I had read a book with a character in it named Perdita, which meant: lost one. What better name for this little, squandered soul that looked up at me with a big, fearful, long lashed gaze? I must admit that this ex-actress had never read Shakespeare’s Winters Tale. Otherwise I would have been well acquainted with Perdita! So eleven years ago, Perdita, the wire haired dachshund put her paw into my heart and my life has never been the same since!
We form emotional bonds with our dogs. How often do we hear the expression:
“A dog is man’s best friend.”
I wondered if in the 12th and 13th centuries, people treated their dogs in the same way as we do today. Then I read an article which made me want to whoop with joy.
It tells of a grave which was discovered in a suburb of Bonn, Germany. The grave was dated to approximately 14,000 years ago, the early Stone Age era. The grave contained a man and woman and two dogs, one of them being a puppy. The fact that the people were buried together with their dogs suggested that there was some sort of connection between them.
Obviously the remains were studied extensively. It was what was discovered about the puppy that interested me. He died at the age of about 7 months of a disease called canine distemper.
He got the disease when he was about 3 or 4 months old. He suffered from two or maybe three periods of intense sickness each lasting up to six weeks. This disease involves diarrhoea, vomiting, high fever and lack of appetite. How did the puppy manage to survive those periods of sickness? It was impossible without human intervention. Somebody must have coaxed the puppy to eat, kept him warm and cleaned up his vomit and diarrhoea. Somebody in the Stone Age era must have cared for that little suffering dog.
It seems that the dog has always been man’s best friend!
It is amazing how alike dogs are to the people they live with.
Throughout Mums’ life she has had back problems. Altogether she has had five back operations. Recently she also had a knee replacement. Today Mums moves with great care.
Six years ago, Mums got the sweetest little dachshund puppy called Brendan. What a joy he is. He is the type of dog that liked to run with the wind, round and round the garden. Then he would stop, cock his head to one side as he listened to the world. His ears would prick forward and he would draw in deeply of all around him. Then once more he would race with the sheer joy of being alive.
Two years ago, all that changed. I was visiting Mums and as I came through the door, Brendan came to greet me. His back legs collapsed and he looked beseechingly up at Mums. We took him to the vet and were told that Brendan’s back was crumbling in places. We had to keep him immobilised in a large pen placed next to Mums chair for six weeks. He gradually improved. But gone is the nimble footed dog that raced around the garden. Instead there is this dog whose motion is that of a slightly drunken sailor. His eyes still sparkle up at you but they are housed in a different body now. I watch Mums and Brendan move to the kitchen together, slowly and with care.
They are so right for each other.
I don’t like using the term ‘owners’ because dogs are not ‘owned’. They share their lives with people. B, Jans, Ingrid and I often go for a walk in the beautiful Botanical Gardens with the ‘children’ that share our lives.
Jans shares her life with a gorgeous collie, Kayla and a rough haired Jack Russell, Finn, who is now a year old. He is the young ‘un in the pack and is a laughable delight. B and Rainbow, also a Jack Russell, live together. Ingrid, who has only been living in George for the past four months, shares her life with Puppy. Puppy is the oldest of all of the dogs and shares with me the world of the deaf. Unfortunately they haven’t yet invented dog Cochlear Implants!
I smile as I watch Kayla lead the dogs on their way. Like Jans, Kayla is the responsible one of the pack. Which is not to say that like Jans she doesn’t also get up to the odd bit of mischief. She sees the pool of water and instantly she and Finn make a beeline for the wet slushy depths. Rainbow is quick to follow. Puppy stays close to Ingrid’s side and Perdita gives the pool a very wide berth. Finn is like Jans in his openness to the world. Everyone is interesting and his friend. Jans carries that same openness within. She struck up a conversation with a woman also walking her dog and that was how Ingrid entered our fray!
Rainbow and B are very alike. They are both small, compact and muscular. They both know their own minds and are not easily deterred. Rainbow is a dog that actually smiles! When she is enjoying herself or else greeting you, this big grin erupts all over her beautiful face. When B is on her bike, doing something she loves to distraction, her smile is as wide as the sky!
As for Puppy and Ingrid, both are relatively quiet individuals. Yet they take note of things that others seem to miss. Puppy is now deaf but her sense of smell is strong. I delight in watching her sniff at the oddest things in the Botanical Gardens. Often she almost seems to stop, her head tilts to one side and smiles at the various scents in the air. Ingrid is the same with people. She will have picked up which is your favourite wine and comment on your perfume.
Perdita loves going on her Botanical Gardens outings.
I turn around and smile because she is always way behind the other dogs. Even Puppy outruns her.
“C’mon, Perdits, come on, Angel-Face”, I call to this running dog with her tongue hanging out. She reaches me, but doesn’t stop. She has to try and keep up with ‘the pack’! I laugh at the similarity between us. I carry a big stick to help me with my walking. I am the slowest of the walkers, but I limp along with great enthusiasm. Yesterday I shouted to the others: “You go to the river with the dogs, I will wait at the top of this field.”
Perdita looked at me imploringly as I slowed down.
“C’mon, Gaynor, c’mon!”
I shoo’d her on. “Go on, go with Kayla!” Her steps hesitated. “Perdita, go with B!”
And my little Perdita, her tongue hanging down to her knees, went with B to the river where her thirst was quenched.
I wish to do very un-Christian things to people that abuse the dogs in their care. The anger in me boils! The love that most of us feel for our dogs is immense. The love our dogs feel for us is more than we ever feel for them. Immeasurable and unconquerable! They love us unconditionally. Unlike us, dogs are not judgemental or vindictive. They live in the moment, expressing a boundless joy. Often if I’m going out for the morning, I will leave Perdita at Mums’ house. Mums tells me that Perdita places herself on the chair by the door where she can see outside. She does not move from that chair until she sees my figure appear. Then I get these loud barks of welcome which only stop once I have picked her up and loved her. A very different greeting to the wagging tail and fearful cringe I remember from our early encounters.
If you wish for superlative joy and happiness to enter your life, go to your SPCA and take your pick. This is where one of the most meaningful relationships of my life began. Most people sleep with a spouse in their bed. I look at Perdita sleeping with her head on the pillow next to me.
I am happy.
In the Beginning, God created Adam, Eve and…The Dog!!!
“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.”