Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Return to normality

It gets tiring being away from home a lot, even if some of the time it’s for pleasure – such as visiting our sons – rather than for business.

Putting it another way, it’s good to get home. You sleep better, it seems to me, in your own bed. It’s good to have the things you need close to hand. It’s good to get up in the morning and find a coffee machine you know how to use, and a fridge containing the things you want for breakfast.

That kind of normality is even more attractive for the non-human members of our household. Disruption of their accustomed lifestyle is something they find deeply disturbing. The sooner it’s over, the happier they are.

The problem with the disruption is that it recently became more radical than it used to be. Our good friend Suzanne used to move into our place, so the animals – Luci and Toffee, the toy poodles, and Misty the masterful cat – could stay in their normal environment while we were away and still enjoy the presence of someone they’d come to know and love.

In fact, I’d noticed that the poodles – the girls, as we like to think of them – made more of a joyful fuss about Suzanne’s arrival at our place than they ever did about mine, when I came back from a trip.

However, sadly for them though happily for her, Suzanne recently became a grandmother (congratulations, Suzanne, and even more to the new parents). This means that she’s still happy to look after Misty and the girls while we’re away, but she needs to do it at her place rather than ours. That’s fine, but moving somewhere else is always a bit more of a jarring experience to dogs than staying in the place they’re used to, and Misty of course, who stays at home, misses out on Suzanne’s company, as she only comes round to feed him and spend a little while talking to him and stroking him.

So our return now represents a much bigger change for them all than it once did.

What amazes me, though, isn’t the extent of the change, it’s the speed with which they adapt. Within minutes, Toffee had picked up her old habit of demanding that I throw a soft toy across the room for her in the evenings. The trick is that she drops it beside me while I’m trying to watch the TV and whines until I pick it up and throw it again. If I fail to, she scratches my arm in what she no doubt thinks is a gentle gesture to remind me of my duty, but in reality is pretty painful – those claws aren’t as sharp as Misty’s, but they’re quite sharp enough.

I can tell you, the gesture works. One scratch and I’m throwing the toy again. Anything to avoid another reminder, even though I know that I’m rewarding her for doing it and she’ll only be even more inclined to do it again.

What tells me even more powerfully that things have got back to normal is when I see the pets relaxing. They have a capacity for total resting that never ceases to amaze me. So I was delighted to see that Misty was once more in his favourite place for a morning snooze – the middle of our bed.

Nobody relaxes so well as a cat at peace
Meanwhile, Toffee and Luci had also settled straight back into their relaxing place of choice: next to each other at one end of our sofa.

Resting's even better when you can do it with a friend
Those pictures of domestic calm, bliss even, said more strongly than anything else could, that all was back to normal.

What I haven’t yet told them, though, is that we’re off again at the end of the month. For under a week, but still it’ll be another cycle of disruption. Poor things.

It’ll be good, though, to see them getting right back to normal again just as soon as we return home.

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