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Dog Dependence Disorder

January 11, 2011

I follow the blog of a man who has been in the post therapy stage of prostate cancer, as he charts his way through this hiatus in his life. Having missed some entries of late, because I have missed a lot of my life recently for various reasons, I backtracked, and found an entry I had missed. It is about the role of his dog in his recent life. I’d like you to read it at:

Naturally it spoke to my condition. My beloved border collie, Buska, up and died on me recently after a short illness and the effect on me was, and is, a blow to my self-image as someone who was psychologically and practically independent when it came to dealing with life.
I have a very good grasp of the medicinal aspects of my disability; I design my own exercise programme (much to the delight of my physiotherapist, as it allows he and I to discuss  professional cycle races during appointments, instead of all that exercise tosh) and I have my own recorded meditation tapes to help me deal with the consequent “lows” that go with chronic pain and physical limitations. From a past incarnation, I know a lot about drugs and often influence the strategy of my keyworker in the pain clinic.

In other words, although I was not “progressing”, in terms of any sort of recovery, I was holding my own against the usually inevitable gradual worsening of the pain and the psychological implications.
But, suddenly, it’s all gone pear-shaped. I look back on a day and realise that I have not kept to my walking programme. I go upstairs to do my exercises and, as many are done on my back, I find myself taking a nap to make up for the broken sleep of last night. The medication I take late evening lies on my stomach and gives me mild nausea, in response to which I either take an anti-emetic (with its own side effects) or I don’t get to doze off until the early hours.
Of course, I should have realised. What I am missing is the appearance of the head on my right leg with those soulful brown eyes looking at me and reminding me that collie’s are creatures of very fixed habits. I used to walk whatever the weather, no choice. I wasn’t allowed to take a nap because I would have my face washed as a test of whether I really meant it. And the list goes on; I no longer have anybody to tell “Well, fellah, I can’t sit here all day, I’d better go and ……” which statement had necessarily to be followed by some action, or I would have to listen to plaintive whistles and groans.
I am surprised (although I loved him dearly) how much the gap in my life is not just emotional, it’s practical; it was the planned nature of my routine, planned not by me, but by my canine boss.

So much for my ability to manage my life independently. Remind me to ring Social Services in the morning, would you?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2011 11:32 am

    Better to ring the RSPCA and ask if there is a border collie needing a home….

  2. January 12, 2011 10:17 pm

    Hi Viv, Yes that seemed the obvious solution to me, at first. Then I realised that at least for a while, I would be searching for a clone of Buska. And to get all those benefits I had, it would have to be a clone with whom I had spent ten years, and one with his history before coming to me. I think we were particularly close because there were situations where I l0oked after him as the pack leader. I had much experience of collies, working and pet; probably more than most folk who hadn’t shepherd relations and friends. I very quickly picked up on his signals and knew when to make him feel safe and how. So we had a give and take relationship rather than the usual “I must please my owner” collie sycophant one. He seemed always to know when he was put in charge and that it was temporary. Many collies are such that, if you let them take control, they assume it’s forever.
    So I think I have to push on, and get some self discipline, instead of relying on a four legged alarm clock. And, anyway, I need to be in charge again, before I get another dog, or it wouldn’t be fair. So it’s at least a six month sabbatical. By then I am going to be of an age at which I will need to think about my future capacity to look after a dog over it’s life time and , even, whether I will not outlive the poor mutt.

    • January 13, 2011 10:53 am

      That was stupid and insensitive of me. Sorry. I feel exactly the same way; Holly was one of a kind. I don’t want another dog, I want her back, young and fit and healthy. Until that passes, it is unfair to ask another dog to fit her shoes, metaphorically speaking.
      I wish Holly and Buska had met; I suspect they were kindred souls. She was only part collie, but she was very like Buska in the way you describe him.

  3. January 13, 2011 12:59 pm

    Eh? ‘course it wasn’t stupid and insensitive as far as I am concerned. Sometimes we all overdo the empathy and get into the ” I wonder if that might have upset…..” stuff. I’m a sucker for sending the “Was it something I said?” post. I think, as you can see from my FB comments, that I try to extract a laugh, or at least a humorous sign off, when somebody relates a disaster on there. I think that humour is a good way to open the door for somebody to offload. It also sends a signal that it’s all right to talk about this. Beyond that it sometimes reminds folk that all thoughts about this subject are not negative, there is some lighter stuff. On the other hand, it can really show that you’re stupid and insensitive, can’t it? [adds smiley, which Viv will ignore]

  4. January 13, 2011 1:03 pm

    …. or maybe I shouldn’t have put in that last sentence? Now I’ll have to ask Viv whether I said something! And then she’ll reassure me – but I won’t know if she really means it, or is just being nice. So maybe I shouldn’t say anything, but then she might think I am ignoring her. So maybe I’ll just make a humorous comment on her FB page and she’ll know I didn’t take it to heart. But than she might feel that the lovely stuff in her “apology” was not noticed, I mean, I didn’t mention it in my reply and now it’s too late. So I’d better ……

    • January 13, 2011 1:08 pm

      You are an idjit, but I love you.
      It was just that within hours of Holly passing, I had to bite my tongue when people asked me if we’d get another dog. I don’t want another dog, I want her. I guess it’s the same for you.
      And you should know by now I am not nice. Good perhaps but not nice.
      Not everyone really understands from personal experience about how our animals can become more than “just” animals; some see pets as interchangeable toys or accessories rather than living individuals who twine themselves into our very souls. You have to pity people who never get this experience because the experience makes a person a deeper soul.
      After all, if a close relative dies, you can’t just get another one.

    • June 14, 2011 7:49 pm

      Dunno about you but I still miss mine loads.

  5. Jenny Eatwell permalink
    February 9, 2013 10:42 pm

    Ian, I am so sorry to – belatedly – learn that Buska has died. The two of you came as a pair in my mind. If you get to the stage of considering another dog pal, can I recommend that you contact The Cinnamon Trust, as they take dogs from deceased and/or hospitalised owners. The dogs are very often aged and very not used to a kennel environment – so you would be doing them a huge favour by giving them a home, plus you wouldn’t need to worry about the lifespan aspect. Of course, it means you’ll be suffering heartbreak again fairly soon – but if you can cope, it’s a very worthwhile thing to do. 🙂

  6. Jill Holliday permalink
    April 7, 2015 10:56 pm

    I still miss him too.

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