Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The curious effect of a dog in a night garden

It seemed so empty, so mind-blowingly banal, the older person’s dogged determination to follow a dull routine through to completion, each and every day.

That was how I saw my grandparents’ generation, as a child. Or worse than a child: as that most awful of creatures, an adolescent. 

I’d see those old people, each night, turning off lights, putting things away in the fridge, carefully turning lock after lock on their doors. Painful.

‘God preserve me from ever becoming that dull,’ was my unspoken prayer.

I’m not at all convinced that one of these old people I watched with such a sense of superiority was my maternal grandfather, but for some reason when I remember those times, it’s him I think of. And I have those memories most days.

That’s because each night, any time after 10:00, my dog Janka gets her last trip of the day to the garden. She likes gardens. She likes to be among plants and flowers. So she likes that final visit of the day.

Janka feeling comfortable
Its a peaceful moment, a sort of cadence to the day. And the ritual has clearly defined rules. The other day I tried to take her out at 9:30, but got an incredulous look.

‘What game are you playing?’ she seemed to be saying, as she refused to leave her place of comfort on the sofa. ‘This is much too early. Try again in an hour or so. Half an hour if you’re really too knackered to last any 

But some time after 10:00, right up to 1:00 in the morning (that’s the deadline before the barking starts), she’s fine and ready to head out. Just as long as I come with her. I don’t have to do anything, or even be that close to her. Just stand a way back on the path while she pees, tell her she’s a good girl when she’s finished, and then follow her back into the house.

It’s slightly odd because for the first pee of the day she needs nobody. Open the door and out she goes. But in the evening she needs a more companionable moment, so I provide a little company.

Then we get back indoors. First thing, to ensure I don
’t forget, I turn the garden light off (did I fail to mention that Janka feels a little light is an essential ingredient of a comfortable garden visit at night?) Then there’s the back door. For reasons that escape me, it has three locks. I’m sure there’s no need for all of them, but if there are three, I’ll lock three.

That’s when the memories hit me. As I doggedly turn the locks, and carefully check that I’ve done everything, back comes the image of those old guys doing their banal daily duty. And I
’m invaded by the chastening feeling that my prayer, like most prayers, went unheeded. I’ve turned into just the kind of person I hoped I’d never become. 

Not a particularly gratifying sensation.

But, hold it, what the heck. I’ve just had a moment of sociable peace with my dog. And funnily enough, when I think of my grandfather, it isn
’t obsessive evening rituals that come to mind, but his smile, his strength, the things he cared about passionately and the things he didn't care for at all. Welcome memories. Thirty years ofter his death. 

That's got to be worth a moment of mild self-deprecation.

In any case, got to get the door locked. After all, who wants to offer an easy opportunity to burglars?


Anonymous said...

A Janka story I DID enjoy.


David Beeson said...

Glad you liked it, San!

Awoogamuffin said...

I'm looking forward to a detailed blog entry trying to figure out whether you really do need to lock all three

David Beeson said...

I hate to disappoint, but don't hold your breath...