There’s a 5.2 kg ‘terrorist’ sleeping on our deck. She’s black and tan with splashes of greyish white, has four legs which appear to grow by the day, is seemingly made of rubber, runs like the wind, can leap tall buildings in a single bound and wriggle her way into, out of and under almost anything, especially your heart! She looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, is soft and cuddly, showering me in kisses one moment, then rounding me up, nipping at my heels and ‘circling the flock’ as she was born to do, the next. While she is fiercely independent and able to be by herself outside for hours at a time, she still loves attention and allows me to wrap her up and hold her in my arms for comforting, completing her day snuggled up at our feet in the lounge-room. Her beautiful almond eyes rarely shy away from contact, and she can hold you in her gaze as long as she desires.
She’s eleven weeks old, a heart-stealer, a vixen, as bright as a button, stubborn as an ox, strong-willed and could outwit the best of us. She’s an Australian Kelpie x Cattle Dog with paw markings that look suspiciously like a Rottweiler, which may be her (or our) saving grace according to the teacher at Puppy Pre-School. Her name is Eve – like the original woman – or as we say in Australia, Evie. She’s daddy’s little girl and mummy’s beautiful baby. In just three weeks she has turned our lives upside down one more time, but in ways Buster, her big brother – who no doubt sent her to us from his place in Heaven – never did. Her tantrums, which thankfully have subsided, comprise of leaping two feet in the air and throwing herself against the mesh screen or glass doors of the deck, which, unsurprisingly caused me great concern the first few times.
Roberto, my husband and I have had enough Strategic Meetings to set up a business in that time, fast-tracking her entre’ into our family and responding to her needs to enable him to fly out to Italy today to attend to family matters there. There’s a ‘Management Plan’ and ‘Rules for Evie’ on the fridge, to remind us of what we’ve agreed on in the moments when she catches us off-guard and we are tempted to lose our cool. I walk very slowly and deliberately around the house where each day I make every effort to create a calm and orderly environment to reinforce the routines we are building into our lives with her. I’ve washed my hands a thousand times, spent a day commiserating with all the women and men who’ve ever experienced Post Natal Depression, and seriously questioned our sanity taking on such a challenge in our 60’s.
I’ve googled information about her breed umpteen times, talked ’til I’m blue in the face and attended the first three weeks of Puppy Pre-School, begrudgingly at first, and then with a far more graceful demeanour. For the first time, I understand what the term Helicopter Mum means and what my former boss meant when she said she knew nothing when she gave birth to her son. I’ve reflected on my experience as a Special Education Teacher and parent to Buster. While they prepared me to some extent, Evie has brought me to my knees at a time when my rational mind says I ‘should’ be doing so many things other than what it has taken to be at this place with her. I’ve even had a Tetanus Shot to be on the safe side because I can’t afford to be ill.
Each day I reflect on the progress she and we have made, which gives me the courage to face another day. At times I have recalled my own words from my book Travels with Buster – A Journey of Unconditional Love, delving into the chapters that I wrote for parents and wondering if I will be exposed as a failure or phoney with this ‘child’. As Buster came to teach us about unconditional love, Evie is here to teach us about the other side of love, fearlessness. As fear is the opposite or absence of love, fearlessness makes room for love to materialise. Fear is also the call to love, to be shown how to love when, as I have experienced many times in the past 21 days, our bodies are reacting from fear, when the fight, flight or freeze trauma responses are triggered within us. There have been a few times when, physically hurting from the sting of her puppy teeth or claws, I have said “That’s it! I’m over it! I can’t do this anymore!”.
Together we have questioned whether we have done the wrong thing by her, whether even with the good-sized yard she has to run and climb in, what is in her nature requires more than this, and I am aware that many people would say “She’s a Kelpie, she needs to be with sheep.” And then each morning when we open the door, and she greets us with the exuberance of an innocent puppy, we know we were destined to be together. I am grateful for the words of the Dog Trainer who reminded me that most domestic dogs are not living the life they were bred for and that with the right ‘upbringing’ – my words – she will have a great life with us. No doubt once she is no longer in quarantine, to protect her in the first three months where she is most vulnerable to disease, the opportunity to take her walking and running and swimming will satisfy the release of pent-up energy she has. And with continued intellectual stimulation, she will be healthy in body, mind and soul. Could a parent wish for anything else!?
Each day Evie has delighted us with some new achievement strengthening our resolve to go the distance with her. We are crystal clear about what’s at stake here and what our role as her parents is. Our love for her has meant we have put aside our fears to practice tough love when necessary and ensure that we give all of us the best chance for success. Then if the worst eventuates – that we can’t handle her and we must find her a new home on a property – we will know we have left no stone unturned. Like all children, Evie will test us to show her that we are the big ones, we are the Leaders of the Pack on whom she can rely. This is why we must devote ourselves to this task as well as take the care of ourselves necessary to be up for the job itself. Sitting here now writing at my actual desk rather than our dining table for the first time since we brought Evie home is possible only because I am doing both those things.
Consider who or what is most important to you and ask yourself “What’s at stake here?” Then do what’s required to fulfil that commitment. Do what you know to do then, if necessary, ask for help, find out what’s missing and how to do that. Devote yourself to the whole of your life, remember that whatever it is that you are working toward, the short-term pain will be worth the long-term gain. Get that ‘stuff’ right, and everything else will fall into place in divine manner and timing.
27 January 2020