Thursday, 27 August 2015

Not easy to reach full womanhood

The transition to womanhood’s never easy. Especially for women. But it isn’t altogether smooth even if you’re of the canine persuasion. Our poodle Luci started her first heat this week, and it’s left her more than a little perturbed.

“She may be a little clingy,” said the veterinary nurse during her routine checkup.

Clingy? I’ll say. She’d never jumped onto my lap before, but since Monday it’s either a leap or, if the chair’s just a tad too high, scrabbling at my knees until I lift her up. Once there she sits content and at ease, surveying all around her, her boiling anxiety temporarily and partially assuaged.

Let me up! Let me up! It's lonely down here
Previously, she was happy just to lie down next to us, on the sofa. But now she’s become a lapdog in the full sense of the world. And, if my lap is covered, as it frequently is, by a laptop, she’ll just walk around on the keyboard until I remove it. It’s a great relief for her when Danielle’s home: far less of a fidget than I am, and less inclined to use her laptop, she provides a more satisfactory place to relax and calm the roaring hormones.

Other aspects of this experience remind me of an old friend who told me, “you’re lucky. As the father of a son, you have to worry about a boy. I, as the father of a daughter, have to worry about every boy in the neighbourhood.”

Our garden is reasonably fenced in. There are, however, points where contact between the bottom of the fence and the ground isn’t quite as hermetic as one might have wished. That’s never been a problem before. Luci, who’s now completely mastered the use of the cat (and “small dog”) flap in the kitchen door, lets herself out when she needs to do, as the received euphemism has it, her business, or when she just feels like wandering out. But as a sensibly timid dog, she’s never been tempted to grub away under the fence and let herself into the neighbour’s garden (though she likes the neighbour, and if ever we’re chatting to her with the two gates open, she dashes into the house, with never so much as a by your leave.)

Now, however, we’re worried not about Luci doing the digging, but about any stray male in the neighbourhood. Like my friend, we have to worry about all the boys around. So the cat flap has to be locked, at least if we’re both out of the house.

This can have unplanned, unwanted consequences. I discovered as much the other day, after returning from an errand. I was tapping away at my keyboard when I began to get that terrible feeling – you must know it – that I was being surveyed with intensity and little goodwill. I looked up and saw, sat quietly on his haunches, completely still and yet deeply baleful, our cat Misty. Reproachful, that look was, I’d say, perhaps even accusatory.

It took me only an instant to realise what this was about.

“What have you done to my cat flap?” he was saying, “I can’t get out into the garden. This is not the level of service to which I’ve become accustomed. Or regard as my minimal entitlement.”

You did what to my cat flap?
I naturally dropped everything, scattering laptop and lapdog in different directions, and ran to the kitchen. I unlocked the cat flap, but Misty wasn’t having any of it. He still looked at me suspiciously.

“It’s OK, Misty, really,” I assured him, and pushed the cat flap with a finger. He watched it flap open and shut with the customary sound. Then he wandered up to it himself and tried it with a paw. When the result of his own test – why trust the person responsible for the initial disappointment, after all? – he consented to stick his head through, and when that went well, slid his whole body out into the garden.

Picture my relief. I’d allayed Misty’s ill-humour, and without even being scratched or bitten. A bigger success than you might imagine.

I could now go back to Luci and stroke her again, consoling her as best I could for the overwhelming changes taking place inside her.

Not easy, the passage into womanhood. Worst for the individual concerned of course. But no one in the environs escapes wholly unaffected.

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