I was reading Jenna Woginrich’s book Barnheart the other day. At the beginning of the book, after she moves from Idaho to a small cabin in Vermont, she writes about waiting for spring so she can get to work establishing her backyard farm. She talks about missing the rhythms that a farm provides.
Another friend recently lost her pug and she has been posting a series of Facebook statuses on the changes in her schedule such as missing her little one’s morning wake-up bark.
A life with dogs provides a daily rhythm. This is true for everyone, I think, and especially true for those of us who are single, widowed, divorced – who might otherwise be alone. Oftentimes such a remark feeds into “the crazy catwoman” stereotype – the belief that our dogs or cats are a substitute for what we lack. I don’t see my pugs as a substitute. I do not have them to fill a hole, yet, fill a hole they do nonetheless. Their walks and feeding schedule, naptime, and snack-time provide as reliable a daily routine as the movement of the moon. In fact, Alfie and Waffles know our rhythms better than I do.
If I sleep too long or work too long or choose to forgo grabbing my computer to work on the sofa, they begin a series of whines and screeches, circles and barks – it’s time to let us out, it’s time to eat, it’s time to snack, when are we going to curl up on the sofa, where’s my bone?
Sometimes it can be a little stifling. If I shift in my chair a certain way Alfie interprets this as playtime and begins scratching at my leg until I pay attention to the stuffed animals she’s brought me. Sometimes, I’m trying to hold a conversation and she goes scratching at the back door in the hopes that I’ll get up, open it and throw her a bone. She does not, by the way, want to go out in the slightest – she just wants the bone and the attention. Waffles lacks all subtlety. If she wants me she simply lets out her banshee scream. It can be annoying and frustrating. It is also comforting.
When I come home they greet me. They smother me with kisses whether I’ve been gone five minutes, five hours or five days. Without them the house would be empty. Their whines and their screeches speak of life. We are here, they say, so are you.