Each year since she arrived in England, our daughter-in-law, Ali, has gone to Canada for a few weeks to catch up with her family and friends. Between visits Ali’s mother, and sometimes her father, come to London. Ali missed her usual Christmas trip in December 2019 and with no parental visits since the pandemic began, the pull of Canada became increasingly strong. A week ago and at very short notice a work opportunity there arose and Ali, our son Joshua and our grandson River flew off with their coveted negative Covid-19 tests.
The last thing to be done before departure was to find somewhere for their dog to stay. They would be away for eight to ten weeks and where better to lodge Lupey than at the kennel of Mum and Dad? This blog is about our first days together; more precisely, about how both Lupey and I have changed since she last stayed with us some two years ago.
Lupey, who is a miniature wire-haired dachshund, was born in Germany almost ten years ago and, as a puppy, was bought by Joshua who was then living in Berlin. In human terms she would now be in her early sixties. These dogs were bred to chase rabbits from their warrens and, in keeping, she is tiny. However, despite her size – she could easily live in a hat box – she has a piercing bark which she uses to ward off dogs and strangers, sometimes imaginary!
I am not a dog enthusiast and the contract we struck before we offered to house Lupey was that responsibility for her care would fall mainly to Rohan. I would be there as a back up, just in case! We always had family dogs when our children were growing up but I saw them as verging on the unhygienic – being licked was always anathema to me and washing up their food bowls was not far behind. Moreover, taking them for walks was more burden than pleasure and following behind to pick up poos was both embarrassing and degrading.
But that was the past – Lupey and I have now changed and being together has become easier. First, Lupey and her desire to dominate. When we used to take her for walks she pulled on the leash as she forged ahead leading the way. Now, pulling is rare and what was once a tug-of-war with the inevitable aching shoulder, is now a calm saunter. In keeping with this behaviour, at home she no longer rushes into places out-of-bounds. Previously when backs were turned, she would rush up stairs to our bedroom, and, if the mood took her, sleep on our bed. This is now a thing of the past.
Next to her licking, her desire to ‘wash’ me has now stopped. Instead, soon after I sit down on a sofa, she is snuggling up beside me resting her head on my thigh. Now, when she is close by, I find myself enjoying stroking her back and even speaking to her.
Finally – her barking. Her annoying – infuriating – yapping outbursts are now much reduced; she is less easily provoked, stops immediately if told off and, importantly, the bark itself now feels rather different – hers is no ordinary bark. Recently, a German woman staying nearby approached us rather hesitantly asking if we could resolve a conundrum. After some introductions she explained how, unlike any of the other dachshunds around, Lupey barked in German. Moreover, on the one occasion she had spoken in German to tell her off, Lupey appeared to understand – « How could this be? ». When we told the neighbour of Lupey’s early years in Berlin, she was satisfied – in a surreal way everything now made sense. What’s more, when I now hear the bark it has a redeeming feature.
In many ways, Lupey’s changes are in keeping with her age – what else would one would expect of a 60-year old? I too am ageing – almost 80 years now – and for me the more recent changes have been influenced by a year dominated by the lethal Coronavirus pandemic.
These last ten months have been tumultuous. Everyone will have been affected and for my part, in response to this raging viral storm I became anxious, frightened, suspicious, sad and helpless. In addition, I have grown even closer to, and more appreciative of Rohan, my family and my friends. And with this there has come a greater understanding of ‘others’. Accordingly, this once rather intolerant old man has not only softened a tad, but has noticed himself listening and feeling more sympathetic and open-minded. In my dog-sitting role, it is this more accepting side that has allowed me to warm to Lupey, to tolerate and to like her. It does feel that our changes have complemented one another.
The illustration shows a photo of a reflective Lupey sitting on a chair
For helping me write this blog, I would like to thank Joshua, Sarah, Rohan and Vivien.