Tuesday, February 10, 2015

So This Happened

The first story in Jeanette Winterson's collection The World and Other Places is called The 24-Hour Dog. I used to be uniformly smitten with everything I read by Jeanette Winterson, and the first time I read this collection I still thought she was one of the most original and imaginative writers ever. I still think a lot of her writing is inspired, but I've also come around to acknowledging that critics who call her pompous and overblown are not always entirely wrong.

I don't know if the unnamed, ungendered narrator in the 24-Hour Dog is supposed to be Winterson - it certainly seems like it could. The narrator captures a lot of the broad strokes of dogness beautifully: "I made him walk on a lead and he jumped for joy, the way creatures do, and children do and adults don't do, and spend their lives wondering where the leap went"; "This was a little bit of evolution that endlessly repeats itself in the young and new-born thing. In this moment there are no cares or aeroplanes. The Sistine Chapel is unpainted, no book has been written"; I looked at him, trusting, vulnerable, love without caution. He was a new beginning and every new beginning returns the world. In him, the rain forests were pristine and the sea had not been blunted."

She keeps the dog for a day and then returns him to the farmer because "he has found me out". The experience is too intense and the dog will be happier with "children and ducks and company", but he will not be "the kind of dog he could have been if I had met him edge to edge, his intensity and mine... What would I have done? Taught him to read?"

Holy hell, what kind of pretentious bullshit is that? It's a dog - it was never going to quote Shakespeare, and you gave him back because he howled all night and you like your sleep.

That said, I lay awake the first night Lucy cried piteously (not for all that long) in her crate at the foot of my bed, Matt on the couch downstairs, Angus in the basement and Eve down the hall with earplugs behind a firmly closed door, and I felt that same rush of terror and self-doubt and "why did I think I could do this?" that I felt when we brought Angus home. People do this all the time, but I don't deal well with change, and the kind of change that disturbs the night tends to tweak my anxiety/insomnia trigger. I was scared.

But she's not a baby. She's a dog. A small dog. Sometimes she leaves unpleasant substances around the house, but it's a small amount. Those babies that I brought home and was terrified at being responsible for are big, strapping people that can take on a lot of the responsibility for this furry little pain in the butt.

I was over at a friend's house and she was saying that her son was out on a date with a girl, and she was totally exasperated at the way she'd wanted her kids to hurry up and grow and now all of a sudden here they were, grown. And it's true. Actually even if you DON'T want them to hurry up and grow it's true. So I'm trying not to wish this away. I'm taking a sleeping pill now and then so I won't be lying awake waiting for her to need to go out. I'm enjoying watching tv with a lapful of warm puppy and trying not to worry about what else I should be doing. Last night I put her in her crate, went to get ready for bed, and when I came out of the bathroom both her and my husband were snoring happily.

She's a baby. She's a ridiculous upheaval in the routine. She's a rallying point for the family. She's a dire threat to my bath mat. She's a new beginning that returns the world.

She's just a dog. We're keeping her.


Hannah said...

This is lovely and makes me so happy & squishy.

clara said...

She is BEAUTIFUL and I love her. I am such a sucker for puppies. Other peoples' puppies.

Swistle said...

I loved this whole post: leading with the funny part and ending in CUTE PUPPIES, what could be better?

Selaine Henriksen said...

Too cute!

Steph Lovelady said...

I'm not much of a dog person, but she is cute. Is she your first pet as a family?

Julie L said...

I think Lucy is going to be good for everyone. How can you not love the warm bundle of pure love on your lap. :)

Nicole said...

Lucy is adorable. We got Barkley when Jake was 3 and Mark was 4, and the first night he cried in his crate, we thought, what the hell are we doing? Why did we think this was a good idea? Then one of the boys would have a potty accident and the dog would and I thought, WHY. But that was short lived and now I can't remember life without my fuzzball.

Pam said...

She is so sweet! Can't wait to meet her.
I am so happy for you all.

Sasha said...

She's a cutie. I'm jealous. Because I know I couldn't handle one ;). I grew up with dogs, and I miss them :(