Four years ago I left Sydney and came back to Italy primarily ‘cos I really wanted to finally get a dog, and I wanted to have a dog where there was a garden, which I didn’t have in Sydney as I was renting a flat. (ok, I also came back ‘cos I didn’t think, then, that I would want to live in Sydney long term and I wanted to start the next stage of my life, but that’s another story).
I got a black miniature Pinscher pup , Baudelaire, as soon as I arrived and I welcomed the change he brought to my life. After a couple of months when I felt I was getting the hang of it, I got another pup, a cream coloured Shi tzu I called Socrate. Though I found work teaching English, had some sort of social life, and hadn’t yet formed the kind of bond with them that can only come with time, I can say my life seemed to revolve around them as I enjoyed taking care of them and taking them for walks every day, and of course taking plenty of photos as I gradually fell in love with them. I wasn’t too keen on playing with them I have to admit, so training was limited to what is necessary and good for them and for living together. Baudelaire was a more difficult dog from the start, with attachment issues and some aggressive behaviour towards other dogs and people, while Socrate was pretty much an ideal dog who loved everyone and was very confident and stable. I didn’t really take them with me when I socialized, but I had time to spend with them at home and when we went for walks. They became my companions, in the way only dogs can be. They lived with me inside, and enjoyed the garden in the warmer months. They were fun and beautiful. I found a new level of ability for commitment through my relationship with them, with the consistency of the care they required. Having them and wanting to give them my best gave a certain circadian rhythm to my days, they were a reference point, a stabilizing force, as I had always been more inclined to improvise and not be so consistent and dependable. Over the years there were changes of course, I changed routines and habits, they changed or developed some aspects of their personalities and dynamics to some extent too, but there was a deep steadiness to our togetherness. Dogs have a way of really being there for you, and showing it to you with confidence and natural strength, it’s really powerful, and it awakens the same characteristic in you , with the bond that is created with them. I learned a lot from them, they seemed to bring back a side of me that I had been missing, a more natural me. Sometimes I felt, as long as one is giving love and feeling loved, a lot of the complications of human relationships are so unnecessary and get in the way of more genuine and heartfelt bonds that seem too rare among humans.
It was a special phase of my life, and I really didn’t think I would ever separate from them, it wasn’t thinkable then. Now and then when I thought of returning to Australia I would look up on how to take them with me, get information about quarantine or pet friendly accommodation.
Last winter I decided I really wanted to go back to Sydney, despite the uncertainties about finding work there , and I really felt i couldn’t possibly take them with me, I had to be realistic. I went through a couple of months to find a new home for them, it was a long process, I don’t know how I managed to do it. I first put an ad at the vet and told everyone, then found an association. Through word of mouth I found an old lady who had just lost her dog and really wanted Socrate. I could barely give him to her, I was crying and asked them to keep the same vet, I couldn’t sleep that night and called her the next morning to see how he was. Finding someone for Baudelaire took another month, of refusing those who didn’t have a garden, or did but worked all day outside the home. I finally found a family who already had one his same breed, had a garden and a dog flap and with whom he would only home alone with the other dog in the morning.
In the meantime I also found it not a wise decision to go to Sydney at this stage, but a better choice to move to the city near here, as I can afford to get my own flat and postpone Sydney for the time being.
I don’t know how I managed to do it, to let go of them, but I felt it was necessary for me, to have my life back, and yes, that amount of freedom which I had given up. I felt that while they certainly had formed a bond with me and this was their life as they knew it that I was taking away from them, they would also be able to form new relationships with other people in another environment. Every owner can’t imagine leaving their dog of course, but it seems more truthful that they can also be happy with someone else, that as long as their needs are met and they are treated well and given affection they can be well. Once I realised that , I was more able to do what I had to do.
I still love them and what we had together (I realise this may sound pathetic to those who haven’t had a dog, but just believe those who have), but I don’t honestly miss actually having them.
The level of commitment that they require is massive, considering they are dogs at the end of the day, not humans. And I’m not talking about better or worse, I just in the end find that humans need humans more than they need dogs when all is said and done. In my case I ended up isolating myself in these last few years, I felt I wasn’t as free with humans as I always had the dogs to come back home to or to have with me if I didn’t. It works better if you are a family probably.
I don’t miss having to care about their needs every day, whether it’s feeding them, walking them, nor cleaning up their stuff and putting it in a bag.
I don’t miss having them on the lead, it did feel like a ball and chain in some periods, and when I was walking in the countryside I would let them walk without.
I don’t miss them suddenly barking when they heard a noise, I do enjoy some peace and quiet.
I don’t miss having to be entirely responsible for them, day in day out, just knowing that they are depending entirely on me.
I don’t miss knowing I have to come home to them after a certain amount of hours, or organising to have them with me or with someone else. I can come and go freely and I’m still happy about that, frankly.
I don’t miss having this feeling of a physical extension of me. While it was beautiful to see how with time and training they behaved beautifully and it was a pleasure to achieve that level of unity, i don’t actually miss having it constantly. I like to be free again.
I enjoy being alone again, and am looking forward to moving to the city and getting a flat and starting my life over, meeting lots of new people , forming friendships, being able to be fully available , if I want to. I look forward to being in a couple again at some point and enjoying that fully, without any other commitment in my free time, like I have done in the past.
I enjoy my own strength and not needing any dog to make me happy, I enjoy giving myself the love I need and being open from there to other people and places and life. I enjoy not feeling the need to have a dog when I see one (like I did instead before I got them).
I enjoy my own company at home, free of attachments, and the mind-space and time to focus on my life and what I want to do with it.
And I don’t miss them coming up onto my bed in the morning. They weren’t allowed to till after three years , they managed in the end, they just have a way of getting their way. I don’t miss them coming on my bed and sleeping in with me like I let them do the last winter. I don’t miss them coming to the door excited to see me when I came home and I don’t miss them jumping up uninvited to sit on my lap when I was on the couch reading. I don’t miss them, most likely because I can still feel them with me.