Saturday, 6 September 2014

'No bother...'

It was early evening and my Grandma was about to leave.  We'd spent all day cleaning and tidying and mopping and dusting.  "He's no bother, is he?" she said, gesturing to Caesar as we drained the dregs of our tea.  This statement was loaded.  When I say 'loaded', I don't mean in an unkind way with accusations or false sentiment.  But, a reflection of the time and improvement he has made and a question hanging in the air 'when?' - when did he become so....fine?!

When did he grow up so much?

When I brought Caesar home from the shelter, my grandparents were two of the first people I took him to see.  They live a short walk from my parents and it was important to me that, as dog lovers themselves, they like Caesar.  So, I knocked on the back door that Sunday afternoon and greeted them wholeheartedly hoping that Caesar would make a good impression.  And, to put it bluntly; he was bothersome!  He would not sit still, he ran up and down their kitchen boisterously, almost knocking my gran off her feet, and then, as if that were not enough, he jumped up at units and tried to steal food. 

In the dog house for being naughty!

A few months later, my Grandad had offered to come and help me plant some nice flowers in my garden.  Kindly, he had donated geraniums and dahlias from his own cuttings and helped me to put them, in their pots in the soil planter at the rear of the yard.  Caesar sat nicely and carefully watched as we planted each geranium and I began to feel as if he may be making a positive impression on Grandad.  You see, Grandad has set ideas about things like dogs; he thinks females are more loyal and 'less bother' and so, before we adopted him, Caesar already had the odds stacked against him.  But today I felt good.  "Good lad," I told him as we stood back to admire our work.  And then I went inside to make a cup of tea.  What ensued, can only be described as 'the great geranium massacre.'  In the minutes it took me to get two cups out of the cupboard and put them on the worktop, all hell had broken loose outside!  

I could hear Grandad shouting so I dumped the cups and ran outside.  This is what I found:
Caesar was jumping on and off the planter at an unstoppable speed!  At small intervals, he was digging a hole and pulling a geranium out of the garden.  Some geraniums were flying into heaps, some were buried under mounds of soil!  And Caesar, was an uncontrollable mess of paws and tongue that could neither be caught or calmed.  Grandad threw his trowel down in the soil and heaved a heavy sigh.  I won't repeat his words about Caesar.  Needless to say, he still prefers female dogs. and has never offered me geraniums since!
My garden - my planter!  

Back in the present day, while we were tidying my Grandma received a phonecall.  He neighbours had lost their old dog.  I remember the dog well as she would often wander round for a fuss or some food on hot summer days when she was supposed to be in the garden.  I was a mere 10 when the family adopted the puppy who had been found tied to a lamppost.  The topic, as is natural turned to our own experiences of this, 'I will find it hopelessly hard when Caesar's time comes' I told her.  What I didn't say is that sometimes I lie awake at night looking at him and worrying about it - his mere 6 years of age only making it harder as I realise the potential of our time together to quintuple!  And our bond too.

We began to talk about mine and Caesar's unlikely bond.  He was not the dog that I had wanted when I arrived at the shelter and I never make a secret of that.  It was Damien who was set on him and would not consider any other dog.  And, I'm pleased that my naivety and judgement were overpowered by my desire to have a dog...any dog.  But our bond began to grow from a few days into our relationship where I felt as unsure about him as he did about me.  We gained a sort of understanding 'we're both OK as long as we know where the other is.'  And, as long as I go out at the same time and return at the same time, he won't destroy my house (much).  

In our house he's more of a free spirit but at other houses he likes to keep me in his sights.  A sort of comfort blanket I suppose.  And that's OK, because I like to keep him in mine too!  And, if I leave him, he'll kick up a fuss as if to say 'you broke the rules'.  And so when I walked out of the door with my purse in my hand leaving him with my grandma, I completely forgot about the silent rule book.  That was until I was half way to the shop.  I felt a little wave of panic overcome me as I crossed the road; what if he wasn't coping?  What if he was scaring my grandma with his odd noises and behaviour?  What if he'd panicked?

I almost sprinted back from the shop.  I'd left the pair for almost half an hour.  And I have to admit I was afraid of what I might come back to.  I knocked on the door and a little face appeared in the window; it was Caesar.  He whined a little and looked around.  I held my breath.  I knocked again.  When I thought about it, Caesar hadn't been left anywhere for a little while.  Last time I tried to leave him with dad, he didn't like it.  He whined and cried and carried on and dad got quite annoyed with him.  'I should have left him in the garden,' I thought.  But it was too late.  Finally, from another room, I saw Grandma walking toward me.  I felt my heart return to it's normal position and I resumed breathing.  "How's he been?"  - "no bother." 

Caesar getting comfortable at my grandparents' house

So there we have it - somewhere between the Great Geranium Tragedy of 2012 and today, Caesar has found a place where he is beginning to feel secure.  Secure being left in a place other than home with someone other than me, secure in spending the day tottering around after me and my marigolds and secure in the knowledge that I will not leave him.  I know that it's not a profound breakthrough and perhaps there's not much to take away from this post.  They say that time is a healer and I'm sure that time has enabled Caesar to feel more comfortable.  He had to work to feel comfortable around me and now he is working to feel comfortable away from me.