Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Sara & me

Sara, my wobbly dog, has had some coverage in this blog.

She is in always-fragile health (although this is an anomaly, given her generally terrifying energy levels). Stung by a scorpion, she developed epilepsy and has some low-level brain damage, which, even though she’s a polite animal, basically makes her a bit doo-lally – jumping willy-nilly on friends and strangers, and no amount of even Oprah-inspired training stops her; occasionally erupting into hysterics of what appear to be overwhelming joy, in which she springboards off anything in her vicinity, including handy humans; plunging up and down like a jackhammer; and so forth.

But Sara the wobbly dog has also become my lodestone. Where recently, with my kids grown up enough to fend for themselves (as long as the fridge is full and the utility bills paid, of course), and I having become a freewheeling person, Sara demands that when I have full-day meetings or long-running projects that take me away from home for extended periods, she is looked after. My darling friend Johann, with his berserk kennel of animals, stands in where necessary, and Sara loves him very much (hey, maybe more than me – he lets her sleep on his bed!), but even he says, ‘Sara stations herself at the gate, and she waits there till you get back.’

Without ever having intended such a thing, I have a loyal loving creature who would apparently quite literally wait for me until hell froze over.

Yet she isn’t shy about what she wants. ‘Special needs’ she may be, but Sara knows what’s what. If I’ve been working all day on my computer and forgotten (as I do) that she needs a walk, she comes and nudges my mouse hand. ‘Hey,’ I say, ‘I’m busy’ (because I imagine I am). But she won’t give up. She nudges, then pushes, causing me to ‘send’ when I mean ‘save’ and suchlike, until I say, ‘Oh, okay then,’ and find her leash and take her down to the field where she can be let loose to run, and there’s a dam, and agile ibises she thinks she may catch, but only in her wildest dreams, and by the time we get back she’s tired and I’m … hey! Relaxed!

Sara sleeps at my bedside (chasing those birds in excited REM sleep, and sometimes going into rictus and scaring me into lying down on top of her because the weight and warmth of my body seem to ease her epilepsy – I stopped her anti-epilepsy drugs, they made her dof), wakes up and goes to sleep when I do, moves from room to room as I reorganise linen, gather laundry, open curtains, load the dishwasher, switch on and off lights… When I’m working, sometimes for stretches of 18 hours, she lies under my feet, pricking her ears when I get up for coffee, groaning and sighing when I return.

Sara is always not entirely with me. Because of her condition, anything could go wrong: her liver could fail (this is very common in dogs like her); she could just exhaust herself; she could break a bone, perhaps a vital one (because of her berserkness); her brain could simply submit to its electrical impulses… at any time, she could be gone.

But in the meantime, she radiates such joy. I love when she suddenly launches herself on me when I’m lying quietly reading, and knocks all the breath out of me, then sits panting into my face with an expression of mischief and glee; when she gets outraged by one of the cats (who tease her mercilessly) and emits a shrill, excited bark because they’ve had the temerity, for instance, to wander past a toy she believes to be hers; when my kids get home from school and she spends the next 20 minutes ricocheting off the walls from sheer delight; when I say, on our beach walks, ‘Sara: in the sea!’ and she attacks the incoming waves, no matter their height, leaping over them as if she has wings; when she’s at rest and I ask her, ‘Sez, alright?’ and she rolls those lovely brown eyes up at me, as if to say, ‘What d’ya think?’

I recently read a book called Marley & Me by John Grogan, a lovely simple story, simply told, of a man and his dog. Marley – like Sara – wasn’t perfect. Marley, like Sara, gave a fair amount of grief throughout his life.

But in the book, when Marley died, John’s last words to him were, ‘Marley, you’re a GREAT dog.’

I cried buckets, because Sara too is a GREAT dog.

And Sara was there, panting and wobbling, to lick up my tears.

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tonypark said...

And,she's an excellent dancer.

Audrey said...

Now you’ve gone and done it Muriel. I’m choked up and I can’t see the screen. I don’t cry a lot, but animals and dogs especially can make me blub at the drop of a hat. Most of the tears of all my life belong to them. Cannot imagine life without them. So deeply happy (in the middle of the blubbing nogal) that you have Sara and that Sara has you.

Have you read the beautiful and utterly heartbreaking “Love That Dog” by Sharon Creech?

settledowndude said...

lovely thanks Murial, reminds me of my bulldog, had everything wrong that could go wrong, including plastic knees, broke more crystal antique vases than I could afford, ate more Gucci handbags(not my own) and shoes,chewed ALL my furniture, was the naughtiest dog EVER and I miss him every day. He was so full of life and love.Bit like a teenager, eye roll tiring but cant be replaced.

meggie said...

Our dog Leo is a bit like that dog of Settledowndude's. He is so naughty, but he is so full of life & love, & sheer bloody energy, we cant help but love him. I dont think we are ever going to get him to stop sneaking pees on the kitchen floor!