Grateful for crumbs

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‘Have you no friends?’
‘None, Sir. I had a friend once but she died a long time ago.’
Jane Eyre’s words to Mr Rochester.

They stay in my mind this morning and rattle around there when I think about the task of letting our dog out into the back garden after his night asleep in the laundry.

For the past year we have kept the dog corralled in a corner of the kitchen living area, which includes a window with a cat door through which the dog is free to come and go. He has the whole back yard in which to play. The dog is small. He can use the cat door with ease and he does so, but not often enough it would seem.

The dog – perhaps like most dogs left to their own devices – prefers to sit inside in his small kingdom under a table on his bed hour after hour until someone walks him or encourages him outside.

My daughter came home from school last week and announced that the kitchen stank of dog.
‘He has to go outside more.’
And so we decided to seal off the cat door and keep the dog outside by day.

It is summertime and although the weather has been unpredictable and far from ideal, it is not so cold that a dog would catch a chill.

We continue to let the dog inside at the end of the day while we prepare and eat dinner. We still let him roam around inside until last thing at night when he now knows to take himself off to the small indoor laundry for sleep.

In the mornings, I feel bad about locking him outside.
‘He’s a dog,’ my husband says after I express my misgivings. He’ll get over it.’

I have no friends. The words resonate. A dog has no friends. Human friendship seems fickle.

The dog keeps interrupting my writing time by barking. He sits on his bed now transferred outside onto the veranda out of sun and rain and barks. He barks every time he hears a neighbouring dog.

Can I blame him? Is his barking a form of communication? Is it out of boredom that he barks? Does he need a friend?

The responsibility of another dog is almost more than I can bear. I did not want this dog in the first place. We have three cats. Enough I say.

Dogs unlike cats need so much love and attention. Dogs are companionable, loyal. They love to play. They want to be near. These qualities, this need for attachment stirs up the maternal in me, both the warmth of affection I now hold for him, but also my guilt.

I anthropomorphise this dog to death, but I do not believe he is without feelings. I can tell when he is unhappy and when he is not. I can tell that this new arrangement does not suit him.

And perhaps my husband is right: the dog will adjust. We all adjust in time to unfortunate circumstances, but it does not ease the pain I feel when I consider this dog’s life.

To me he is like an unwanted child, like Jane Eyre in the home for unwanted children. Such children were forced to be grateful for crumbs, a dog’s life.

I remember when I was little I used to ponder on the nature of gratitude. How old was I? Ten, maybe twelve, when I considered that a child should be able to exist in the world without all the time having to be grateful for her very existence. There were things I considered then that a child like myself should be able to take for granted.

I had argued with my older sister. She said I was lazy. Why did I not help her with the housework? Why did I at least not tidy up our shared bedroom?

It was a Saturday morning. I did not want to clean the house. I did not want to be like my older sister who spent what seemed like her entire weekend, washing clothes, hanging them out, scrubbing out the bathroom, cooking and ironing.

She was the oldest girl; the job fell to her especially after our mother went out to work in a children’s home nearby.

In Allambie Children’s Reception Centre our mother looked after over fifty children at a time. We stayed at home and my mother’s oldest daughter took on the task of caring for us. My oldest sister was meticulous then and now, unlike me.

I ran outside to escape my sister’s harangue. I sat on the brick ledge of the front gate and felt the sun through the thinness of my cotton dress. I sat there still and quiet until I felt dozy and in my reverie I considered these matters.

It was then I decided that children ought to be allowed to live free from the burdens of excessive housework such as my sister demanded of me, until they were much much older. Children should have childhoods, I thought then.

I still think this now, though I recognise the need for some effort to be made on the part of children to ‘make a contribution’.

What hope would I have had in Jane Eyre’s day with attitudes such as mine then? Though if I were born into different circumstances I suspect such thoughts would not enter into my head.

‘You’ll be hopeless in your old age,’ my daughter said to me while we discussed the disarray in our household, which is in need of a spring clean, a spring clean I refuse to undertake myself. I am still the ten to twelve year old of years gone by, but I no longer have an older sister to whip me and the house into shape. My daughter takes her place.
‘You’ll even stop washing yourself,’ she says. ‘You’ll let your house fall down around you. You’ll spend your days in front of the computer writing and nothing will ever get done.’

My daughter jokes but there is a sting to her words.

I do not care for the domestics as I once did when my children were younger and before I took up this writing life.

This writing life that I can only fit into the nooks and crannies of each day, but these nooks and crannies my daughter might argue should be filled with housework and cleaning and putting our house into order.

I have said it before in a quote from the writer Olga Lorenzo, when I die I do not want to have it written on my gravestone: She was a good woman. She kept a tidy house.

I want to read something else. I prefer the words: She wrote well.

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76 Comments on Grateful for crumbs

  1. Leslie Morgan
    February 11, 2011 at 11:35 pm (6 years ago)

    I would not offer to kick a dog, but I don't expect to ever keep another one, as cats are more to my liking. I like creatures that are not so very needy. When my daughter was very tiny, I expected her to wear her own little backpack and manage her sweater when we went for an outing, appropriate to a 2-year-old. Of course, she didn't have to behave like an adult. Just participate in making her own way to the best o f her ability. She's very, very sturdy and independent now at 21.

    What's the quote? Wonderful housewives rarely make history? You write well, Elisabeth. Keep going.

    Reply
  2. Two Tigers
    February 12, 2011 at 12:15 am (6 years ago)

    The house in need of spring cleaning – that I can relate to! The more I give my time to creative pursuits, i.e. the things that actually mean something to me in terms of who I am and why I'm here, the less important it seems to keep the dust levels down, and the floors suitable to be eaten off of. But the plight of the poor dog…I'm sure you will hear much advice and possibly condemnation. I will say this (with the qualification that I am a lover of dogs but an owner of cats!) – dogs need to follow our lead. If we make them indoor lap dogs, part of the human family, they will be content as such. If we keep them outside and encourage and join them in their wild nature, they will be content with that. This dog seems to be suffering from some mixed signals and well-intentioned but not forceful and unified enough direction from his humans! Sympathy is good, but leadership is better, at least to dogs. Humans, quite an opposite story! Thanks for this post, E, provocative as ever! Yes, she wrote well, indeed!

    Reply
  3. Ellen
    February 12, 2011 at 12:36 am (6 years ago)

    I am feeling for your dog. Dogs do wish to be of companionship to a person or family. They do not adjust to be put outside or left alone. They can become antisocial and destructive. They need a alpha person to follow and guide them.

    Who wanted the dog and brought the dog home? They should be the one to care for the dog unless they were a child who in the end is unable to care and love the dog.

    If the dog is unwanted it might be best for everyone to find someone to adopt him/her so they may flourish in a home who truly wants a dog.

    I love dogs and have two. I also have two cats. All are indoors. Perhaps if your dog is stinky a good bath will make the idea of having the dog with the family more pleasant. Washing the bedding and such as well. Maybe some obedience classes would be good as well.

    Give your dog a chance to be a member of the family…you may all learn to love the personality he/she offers.

    Reply
  4. The Elephant's Child
    February 12, 2011 at 1:12 am (6 years ago)

    You do better than write well. You write elegantly and succinctly and are a joy to read.

    We have two cats who in their own way insist on attention. Nonetheless they are largely more self sufficient than dogs. A tricky issue that I hope can be resolved to everyone's happiness (including the dog).

    And the ambience of our household is perhaps best summarised as dusty.

    Reply
  5. Ocean Girl
    February 12, 2011 at 1:53 am (6 years ago)

    Tom our turkey is alone, again, now. But this time, he seemed okay unlike before when he look so sullen. He sleeps on the doorstep and sometimes on the pond ledge right outside my window. Our deck don't just smell like turkey poop! The family feels this is just the least we can do for Tom to keep him company as he keeps us company.

    As always, touching post Elisabeth.

    Reply
  6. just jane
    February 12, 2011 at 3:22 am (6 years ago)

    I was moved, once again by this post. If you have read my blog, you know that I have a dog. She is sleeping by my feet, right now. She is my biggest fan! I feel obligated to give her the best life possible. She deserves it. When my 17 year old cat dies, I will get her another companion. Dogs are pack animals, and thrive on companionship. Her companion is a cat, and she seems satisfied with the arrangement.

    The Spring clean makes me smile. I know that you are sensitive. You have a daughter who is comfortable enough to joke. I believe that, she is using humor.

    The contribution you are making is amazing. You are a writer. You write, you live life, you explore ideas.

    I leave you with this, your dog needs to be all he can be, as well. Give him the best life possible.

    Reply
  7. Anthony Duce
    February 12, 2011 at 3:43 am (6 years ago)

    I feel much as you about children and dogs, and about the chores waiting there to consume all the important time in life. I’m glad I’m not alone. Thank you for a very good post.

    Reply
  8. Windsmoke.
    February 12, 2011 at 5:03 am (6 years ago)

    A dog's place is outside, it's where they belong, your husband's right they will get over it. It might be a good idea to buy a kennel of a suitable size for your dog it might ease your guilt a bit. As for the spring clean just get everbody off their bottom's and do it (Sorry to sound so pushy but that's me):-).

    Reply
  9. Glenn Ingersoll
    February 12, 2011 at 6:15 am (6 years ago)

    The carefully dusted mantle will not speak of all the years you carefully dusted it as new dust gathers … whereas the words you write will speak on without you.

    We are in an ongoing situation with our cats who have decided it is most appropriate for them to urine mark inside the house (they have cat doors so come & go at will). Since they mark the same places again & again a friend suggested we hang up disposable piddle pads in those places. They've become these odd vertical litter pans.

    Reply
  10. Elizabeth
    February 12, 2011 at 7:12 am (6 years ago)

    My goodness, it's tiresome that many of us must justify not being good housecleaners or letting things go in favor of writing. I think it speaks to the old Protestant work ethic and "cleanliness is next to godliness" nonsense. You keep writing, and I"ll keep reading until we're bent and grey.

    Reply
  11. Zuzana
    February 12, 2011 at 7:14 am (6 years ago)

    Dear Elisabeth, this was one of my favorite posts of yours, as it resonated so deep within.

    I am like you. And I am also like Jane Eyre, unfortunately.;)
    I have always disliked domestic work, such as cleaning and cooking and very reluctantly participated in these duties as a child. When I did it was because I was forced to.
    Today I also dislike house chores – as I can imagine spending my free time doing much more interesting things than cleaning. And I truly do get worse with age – you should see my basement.;)
    I agree on the affection of dogs versus cats – I am like a dog although I would love to be like a cat.
    Finally, I love the ending of this piece and I agree; I rather have someone say – there is woman that lived!, instead of – there is a woman that kept her house clean.;)

    Have a lovely weekend dear friend,
    xoxo

    Reply
  12. Christine
    February 12, 2011 at 7:15 am (6 years ago)

    A dog is a pack animal. You, your husband and the three cats are part of his pack. Perhaps his barking in the night is an anxiety symptom?? He has been displaced from his spot. I don't agree with your husband.

    I think animals have feelings and communicate these. Our little dog has her 'glad to see you' walk, her coy, laughing 'smile', and her 'I'm not listening' stance when she is prevailed upon to go to her bed in the laundry at night. She and the cat have taken to wrestling together – an afternoon game. She seems to have missed our older dog to the extent that we are now thinking that 'she needs another dog'.

    Some dogs are capable of intentionality. Our old dog used to set Chloe up so as to steal her bone. It was amazing to watch!

    Reply
  13. persiflage
    February 12, 2011 at 10:54 am (6 years ago)

    Not being a doggy person, I think dogs should be outside, but if I were to have a cat again, it would be inside with me, being stroked and making me feel good. Dogs, for me, are too smelly.
    As for housework, many of us fall into that role by default, by conditioning, by place in family, or by being the 'good' one who could be relied on. I was a pleaser and a placator, who sought approval, and helped meet the domestic needs. I had all those factors, and in recent years, domestic control and order became my way of outlining my personal space and rights in the household. Autonomy, in fact, in a life with an extremely assertive man who always put himself first. All this was to the detriment of other pursuits, and it remains to be seen how my world might expand again. Early days for this, but maybe I will get a cat.
    As I am not a writer, except for a blog, my horizons are otherwise. I want to establish my own sphere, to become a better person and to be free of many of the things which have cribbed and confined me in the past. I want to let the sunshine in. So, to each his or her own.
    My decision would be to keep the dog mostly outside, to keep whatever degree of household order you please, and to pursue you passion for thinking and writing. But you know all this perfectly well. It is fascinating to read and ponder the way you explicate it all.

    Reply
  14. Dave King
    February 12, 2011 at 11:31 am (6 years ago)

    I loved the Jane Eyre analogy. I don't feel qualified to comment on your problem, though – just to sympathise with it.

    Reply
  15. Jim Murdoch
    February 12, 2011 at 1:11 pm (6 years ago)

    We don’t have a dog. I’m not a dog person. I’ll happily talk to and pet them in the street and often ignore their owners in doing so but I have no desire to own a dog. My mother always had a cat and I would love one but I seem to have become allergic in my old age; I certainly wasn’t as a child. We have a bird, a goldfish and four huge snails. They are known as ‘Fishy’, ‘Birdy’ and ‘The Sluggies’ although when I became so lazy about naming pets I have no idea because every other animal I’ve ever owned has had a name. Birdy’s name is actually Poirot but from the day my wife rescued him from being murdered by a magpie he has been Birdy.

    As I write this he’s in the kitchen. He usually spends his days clambering around his ‘castle’, an assorted collection of cardboard boxes that I build afresh every morning for him atop his cage so the configuration is never the same twice. He has ladders and mirrors and things to keep his mind active although this morning he was just getting a bit noisy so he got relocated to his shelf in the kitchen. In every room in the flat he has a place that he knows is his and he goes to automatically. I was going to stick him in the bathroom which is further away but he decided he wanted to go into the kitchen and he’ll probably stay there until I get him. For a creature with wings and who is perfectly capable of using them he does exhibit a marked reluctance to actually fly at times preferring to call on me to come and get him.

    We are his flock. He’s perfectly happy around us but if we leave him alone for too long he will call out for us. He’s discovered that his impression of a car alarm is the most effective way of getting our attention. When Carrie came back from the States last he was strange with her for about a week, wouldn’t fly to her like he used to or let him feed him – when he’s thirsty he usually flies to her for a drink rather than go into his cage – we think he was in a huff with her for abandoning him and he is a huffy bird. He’s a lot better than he used to be about going to bed – it’s not the first time I’ve had to turn out all the lights to get him into his cage – but he still does ‘wings’ most nights to indicate his objection to his cover going down. Last night he did them an unprecedented seven times. All things considered it’s quite amazing just how communicative he has learned to be. I just brought him back in now he’s quiet and the first thing he did was clamber onto the ledge where his cage door is and bow his head for me: in other words, “Dad – give my head a scritch will you?” which I did. He has me well trained.

    We have talked about getting him a mate but Carrie’s read a lot about cockatiels and it’s not just as simple as buying a female bird and that’ll make him happy apparently. Not that he's unhappy. And it would upset me terribly if I thought he was. I take my responsibility as a pet owner very seriously even if I never actually wanted a bird in the first place. I talk to him, play with him, sing to him – he gets his ‘night night song’ every night – and make sure he has a variety of foods located around the place so he can satisfy his need to forage and there’s stuff he can destroy too; he ruined two of the picture frames in the living room before we realised what he was doing.

    My daughter doesn’t like the bird very much. I know if Carrie and I both died she’d ensure he was looked after but I doubt she’d keep him herself. For starters she does have a cat. All I can say it that I hope that never happens because he’ll never have it as good as he’s had it here.

    Reply
  16. erin
    February 12, 2011 at 1:23 pm (6 years ago)

    I LOVE where you go. And how I recognized myself in this piece. And this!!!:

    I considered that a child should be able to exist in the world without all the time having to be grateful for her very existence. There were things I considered then that a child like myself should be able to take for granted.

    Ahahahahhahahahaha!

    And then I abruptly stopped laughing when your memory morphed into my memory morphed into my daughter's being. Ohmygod, it is hard to live with people like us.

    You go so many valuable places in this piece, I am rather staggered. It began with friends, a dog, and then guilt. I know no friends. I know the dog. I know the guilt, too. And then later, I knew the break from housework to writing.

    You do write so very very well.

    xo
    erin

    Reply
  17. steven
    February 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm (6 years ago)

    elisabeth – when i think of the times when i felt that my only friend was a dog or a cat or a bunny or a goldfish i have to say that i fully understand the need to provide a quality of care for them that approaches the human. i also understand the need to anthropomorphize them – it levels the playing field somewhat doesn't it! steven

    Reply
  18. Ruth
    February 12, 2011 at 3:11 pm (6 years ago)

    I am with you, Elisabeth. I do not need to clean my house. I need to write.

    We refuse to get a dog because we know she/he would be alone during the day while we work, and they get so lonely.

    I saw a trailer for a new Jane Eyre movie that looks wonderful. I love your connections here, a flow of the stuff of life that I relate to very well.

    Reply
  19. The Weaver of Grass
    February 12, 2011 at 3:30 pm (6 years ago)

    I have a friend who has a sign on her kitchen wall which says – a tidy house is a sign of a wasted life. I think there is moderation in all things but I agree that we need to be remembered for something more than being houseproud.

    Reply
  20. Laoch of Chicago
    February 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm (6 years ago)

    I guess on some level life is about prioritizing.

    Reply
  21. Kirk Jusko
    February 12, 2011 at 9:16 pm (6 years ago)

    I'm a dog person when I own a dog, and am a cat person when I own a cat. When I own both at the same time, hard to say. Probably I'm more of a dog person, although when a cat bonds with you, there is more of a triumphant feeling connected to it, as cats, opposed to dogs, like to play hard to get.

    Reply
  22. Kath Lockett
    February 13, 2011 at 4:51 am (6 years ago)

    It will be impossible for me to add a comment here without first admitting that I love dogs. Deeply; and I feel for yours.

    Dogs *want* company and, as a pet, that means human company. I'd rather my house smell a bit 'doggish' than have mine outside, lonely and miserable. A fortnightly bath and a weekly vacuum has kept our place reasonably clean and dog-pong free and it's worth it.

    Reply
  23. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 7:14 am (6 years ago)

    There is a balance in life, I suspect Leslie, between our demands that children manage themselves and their capacities at various ages to do so. I'm sure there have been times when I haven't managed to get the balance right. The same applies to our nurturing of pets. We can only do our best.

    Thanks, Leslie. It's good to see you here in the blogosphere again. I hope you're well.

    Reply
  24. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 8:05 am (6 years ago)

    You were right, Two Tigers this post has attracted a number of comments from bloggers concerned for our 'poor' dog. I begin to find myself feeling a tad defensive. I want to say, it's not as bad as it seems. I think he is a loved dog, and relatively happy as things go. No need to call in the RSPCA. And we have had a number of visits from the dog trainer. We were inconsistent in the beginning, but we are trying to sort his life out as best we can in the context of our own.

    Thanks, Two Tigers.

    Reply
  25. Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow
    February 13, 2011 at 8:12 am (6 years ago)

    I enjoyed the wandering quality of this post, sort of like passing through many cat doors that connect different rooms of your life and memories. I think the first thing I remember on your blog when I started following you some time ago was that lapidary tombstone quote "She kept a tidy house". Tidy or untidy as your house may be, you have a way of always making a reader feel very much at home at this blog.

    Reply
  26. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 8:13 am (6 years ago)

    Our dog is part of our family, Ellen, though he is also a relative newcomer. We've lived here for thirty years. We have a busy household, with people coming and going, but I am home pretty well all of the time. We have an enormous backyard with plenty of running room. The dog trainer has given us ideas on how best to handle our dog and we try to be consistent.

    I'm sorry if this post gave you the imprsession that the dog's neglected, unloved or uncared for.

    He's smelly in the way all dogs ae smelly. We have him washed and clipped as regularly as the vet recommends. I gather you shouldn't wash dogs too often because it's not good for their skin.

    I put up a post about the plight of one who feels overwhelmed at times. I anthropomorphise our dog, as we all tend to. Now I feel the need to undo the misconceptions that my writing has stirred up. It's not the first time though.

    Thanks, Ellen.

    Reply
  27. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 8:16 am (6 years ago)

    My writing seems to have stirred up concern for our dog, Elephant's Child. Maybe people identify more with dogs in the main than with messy households.

    I'm glad you too know about dust, too, Elephant's Child. Thanks.

    Reply
  28. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 8:18 am (6 years ago)

    Tom Turkey, Ocean girl, what an amazing pet. I once had a friend who kept a duck. Same problem , duck poo everywhere, but she loved the duck all the same. The things we do for love – of dogs, of turkeys, of our fellow bloggers. Thanks Ocean Girl

    Reply
  29. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 8:21 am (6 years ago)

    We try to give our dog the best life possible within the constraints of our lives, Jane. I know dogs are pack animals and love companionship. We try to meet those needs but it's all relative, which is what I was trying to communicate in this post – badly I fear. It seems I have given the impression our poor dog is a bag of misery. He is not.

    Reply
  30. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 8:27 am (6 years ago)

    It's good to read that someone here commiserates with my struggle, Anthony.

    I fear I have stirred up some distress about my dog rearing skills. It's about as bad as being criticised for the way you bring up children, but people don't often get into that.

    Life to me is a struggle, a real balancing act between all these disparate needs, my own and those of others, including children and dogs.

    Thanks, Anthony

    Reply
  31. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 8:29 am (6 years ago)

    We have a kennel, Windsmoke, but the dog doesn't use it.

    He need not. The climate here is moderate enough by day and he sleeps in the laundry by night, the same place he has slept in since he was a pup. It's hard to encourage him to use the outdoors more, but we're trying.

    Thanks, Windsmoke.

    Reply
  32. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 8:32 am (6 years ago)

    Piddle pads up and down the walls, Glenn. Now that's heroic. A great solution to your wayward cats, but it must be a bit of a put off to you and your visitors.

    Perhaps you don't mind. I have a friend whose cats used to pee in the hems of their curtains unbeknown to them. You can imagine the stench.

    It's hard work keeping and loving pets, but we try.

    Thanks, Glenn.

    Reply
  33. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 8:37 am (6 years ago)

    One of my daughters wrote an eassay on the meaning of dust, Elizabeth and to my surprise there are several worthy books theorising on the subject of dirt and why we are so fearful of it. Dust has been equated with human sin, the cleanliness, next to godliness bit and it has a history that goes back a long way.

    You can come at it from several angles, including a feminist perspective, dirt the great oppressor the thing that keeps some of us chained to sinks. It has always seemed so futile to me and yet I still feel the need to apologise for my inability to control it.

    Thanks, Elizabeth.

    Reply
  34. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 8:39 am (6 years ago)

    I resonate with Jane Eyre, Too Zuzana. I read it as an adolescent and did it make my heart soar.

    We are a pair then you and I in relation to our aversion to the endless tedium of housework and the wish to leave something behind with our memories that moves beyond a clean house.

    Thanks, Zuzana.

    Reply
  35. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 10:02 am (6 years ago)

    Our dog doesn't bark at night, Christine. I must have expressed this post poorly. You're not the first here to read it as though we are giving our poor dog hell. I don't believe we are.

    He barks at times by day, when he hears other dogs barking, but to me it seems sometimes like the crying of a baby.

    You know how it is when the baby cries it can feel never ending but if you put a timer on it, as Penelope Leach did in her book on mothers and babies, to arrive at the statistics: most babies cry for only a small proportion of the time, it just seems longer. Same with our dog. When the dog barks I worry for the neighbours, not that any have complained. Nor do I notice the neighbourhood dogs and they bark often but it doesn't bother me.

    Our dog does not seem unhappy in his barking, nor generally.

    I agree that dogs are pack animals and love the company of other dogs, but ours is more like an only child, perhaps. And only children get by.

    Enough of this anthropomorphising.

    Thanks, Christine.

    Reply
  36. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 10:06 am (6 years ago)

    I hope you can let the sunshine in, Persiflage, for your own good. It seems to me from what I have read of your blog you have been far too attentive to the needs of others and maybe now in this transitional space, this time of change, it is time for you to live as you see fit, not having to bow to the dictates of others.

    Thanks for your generous thoughts here, Persiflage. Also, I hope your new life includes a cat. They are such worthwhile creatures.

    Reply
  37. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 10:11 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks for the 'empathy' – I choose that word over 'sympathy', Dave, though I might be splitting hairs.

    I'm glad the Jane Eyre analogy worked for you. It seems others have missed the point, but that's the way it is with blogs: one person sees one thing while others see another, and you can never predict who will see what and how.

    Thanks, Dave.

    Reply
  38. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 10:23 am (6 years ago)

    Well Jim, it seems to me you do not need a dog, you've enough on your plate looking after Birdy. Who'd have thought one little bird could demand so much of you.

    I think of birds and then I think of Daphne du Maurier's Birds and a slight shudder runs through me, though I know people including my son in law who are passionate about birds.

    I have a friend, a writer, and she feels so deeply about birds there's always at least one or two birds in her fiction. They just slip in.

    We had a dog when I was a child, I've mentioned this elsewhere, and I loved him passionately.

    I can't say I 'love'- there's that word again – our dog, but I care about him deeply and I don't want to see him suffer. I don't want him to be sad, but it's hard to guarantee that he's happy all the time. He can have the most longing look in his eyes at times, especially when the game's over and we have no more time to throw the ball for him to fetch for the umpteenth time.

    If you read some of the comments that preceded yours Jim you'd have seen that I have been given quite a talking to by many of the dog lovers who visit my blog. So I have needed to redeem myself and let them know that despite their impressions from my writing here, our dog is 'loved'.

    He may not quite have the freedom of Birdy but his life is not as bad as some here might imagine. I can't ask him though.

    Thanks, Jim

    Reply
  39. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 10:28 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks for noticing the writing Erin, almost over and above the content.

    I know content is important – it's the stuff of writing – but sometimes I prefer people to follow the form and structure rather than get bogged down on the details. Details are only different aspects of underlying themes and sometimes when we read quickly, as I think most of us do especially when it comes to blogs, we can lose sight of the forest for the trees.

    Thanks, Erin.

    Reply
  40. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 10:31 am (6 years ago)

    I agree, Steven, that we need to repay some of the kindnesses bestowed upon us by our animals. They help us so much, especially when we are young, and vulnerable and also I think particularly when we are old. It's the in between and busy times that make it so much harder to repay some of the debts we owe to these kindred spirits from the animal world.

    Thanks Steven.

    Reply
  41. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 10:36 am (6 years ago)

    I'm looking forward to that new Jane Eyre movie, Ruth. I've sen at least three adaptations of the book already and I never tire of the story, which like so many others I first read as a young girl.

    As for writing taking precedence over house work, well enough said and I think you are wise to resist the lure of a dog given your lifestyle away from home so much. As so many commentators here testify, dogs – like humans, I'd add – need companionship.

    Thanks, Ruth.

    Reply
  42. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 10:38 am (6 years ago)

    I'm glad you share my perspective on housework, Pat. It's so time consuming – a necessary evil – but not something to fetishize, as we can sometimes do.

    Thanks Pat.

    Reply
  43. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 10:41 am (6 years ago)

    I've written before about our tendency to lump together the cats and the dogs, Kirk, like the way we lump together the boys and the girls – different creatures, different temperaments. But within each subgroup there's also enormous diversity as there is with all humans and animals.

    Thanks, Kirk.

    Reply
  44. Elisabeth
    February 13, 2011 at 10:47 am (6 years ago)

    Kath, as I've said to others above, I suspect I've made our dog's life sound far worse than it is.

    You know how it is? When we write we tend to emphasize one thing against another. The whole thing creates an impression.

    I've had this problem before with my writing. I try to create images from my experience. I try to write about things as I feel them and as I sometimes see them, though not necessarily exactly as they are.

    Ask my husband, ask one of the girls, ask our friends and neighbours, whether our dog is unloved and they'd have a different slant from the one I seem to have presented here.

    I say 'seemed' because it was not my intent in writing as i have done here, to feel a need to defend myself over our handling of our dog. But authorial intention gets you nowhere, as you'd know yourself, Kath.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  45. Ms. Moon
    February 13, 2011 at 2:28 pm (6 years ago)

    So much of this I could have written myself. The guilt over the dogs, the untidy house, the fear I have myself that my house is going to fall down around me while I sit here.
    I don't know, honey. We try for balance and constantly adjust this way and that and yet, it never seems quite right, does it?
    Well. We do what we can, we have our eyes on what is important.

    Reply
  46. Robert the Skeptic
    February 13, 2011 at 8:26 pm (6 years ago)

    I don't enjoy domestic chores either, though as a former "efficiency expert" I do have my own methods to complete said chores employing the minimum amount of work.

    Handle it once, wash the plate and put it in the dishwasher as you are don with it, not in the sink. Every trip up or down the stairs requires portage of some object destined eventually for one level or the other. Junk mail goes directly into the recycling when retrieved from the mail box.

    Efficiency is the lazy man's salvation.

    Reply
  47. Elisabeth
    February 14, 2011 at 5:05 am (6 years ago)

    RH, I won't post your latest comment. It's too bluntly insulting of others. Write something more meaningful and we can converse.

    Reply
  48. Elisabeth
    February 14, 2011 at 5:07 am (6 years ago)

    I agree with you, Ms Moon, we try for balance and to keep our sights on what's important, despite our occasional failures.

    We can only keep trying. Thanks, Ms Moon.

    Reply
  49. Elisabeth
    February 14, 2011 at 5:55 am (6 years ago)

    Efficiency is not only the lazy man's salvation, Robert, it makes sense for women too. We of the multi-tasking mind find ways of grinding through those tasks, however dull.

    Thanks, Robert.

    Reply
  50. Marja
    February 14, 2011 at 7:40 am (6 years ago)

    We don't have a dog only because I will have to be the one looking after it. I so not like the domestic chores. Being Dutch I got it burned into me to keep a tidy place especially for visitors. When somebody comes over i have a strong motivation to quickly turn it spick and span. On other day I skip bits and pieces as you said there a far more important things to do, much more worthwhile

    Reply
  51. Glenn Ingersoll
    February 14, 2011 at 7:46 am (6 years ago)

    If we didn't also have an inexpensive deodorizing spray (homemade – ingredients: hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, dissolved in water; it really works!) I would be angry a lot more and probably half crazed by the stench of the cat pee.

    The deodorizing formula was one Kent discovered when our dog – yes, we had a dog – got skunked twice in one month. A chemist had helpfully put it up on the web. I tried it on cat pee as it was cheap, easy to make, couldn't hurt, and, since skunk odor and cat pee odor both squirted out from under tails, I figured it was worth a try. I only recently confirmed that it continues to work when bottled so I don't have to mix up a bucket of the stuff whenever I need to treat the marked spots. Just tonight Kent roared at one of the cats as it pissed on a blanket. If they weren't sweeties otherwise – I'd drown 'em in a sack.

    Reply
  52. Jane Kennedy Sutton
    February 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm (6 years ago)

    I agree with you. Housework is a thankless task with something always needing to be done. I’d much rather write. Hope your dog adjusts to his new routine soon.

    Reply
  53. Phoenix
    February 14, 2011 at 8:22 pm (6 years ago)

    Sounds like you are having a very Virgina Woolf moment, Elisabeth. All you crave is a room of one's own, to write.

    Man, I get frustrated when my CAT is too needy. I don't know what I'd do with a dog.

    I see all too often an imbalance in this world about housekeeping. If a man doesn't like to keep a house clean, it is shrugged off. If a woman, however, doesn't like to keep a house clean – my God. She must be reminded of her duties and if she still does not care, she is perhaps a little unbalanced (continuing the Jane Eyre theme, perhaps the crazy wife hidden away in the attic never liked keeping the house clean either?).

    There is a balance to be found between our responsibilities and our pleasures, but women usually get the brunt of not fulfilling their responsibilities, so listen to those imploring you to do more chores with a more careful ear. Are they leading happy, balanced lives? Or are they martyrs?

    As for the dog – it is not an easy subject to tackle. Dogs love and crave companionship, and yet they are not able to take care of their mess or keep from being underfoot. The balance between the pleasure of owning a dog and the responsibility of owning one must also be weighed.

    Reply
  54. Kass
    February 14, 2011 at 9:32 pm (6 years ago)

    It's hard for me to have animals because I feel for them a little too much. I go get my daughter's dog each day while she is at work because I can't stand the thought of her distended bladder, waiting all day for her mistress's return. I'll look over at her while I'm busy doing something and she looks so bored, I just have to get up and walk her…

    …or maybe I just use her as the excuse for why I don't get more things done.

    Reply
  55. Elisabeth
    February 15, 2011 at 10:45 am (6 years ago)

    The Dutch have a reputation for obsessive cleanliness, Marja, which always amazed me as a child because my family lived in squalor. With nine children and very little money what more could you expect.

    These days, having read more and having contact with more Dutch people outside my family, I can see where the obsession comes from. Pity I don't share it.

    Thanks, Marja.

    Reply
  56. Elisabeth
    February 15, 2011 at 10:48 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks for explaining how you deal with the difficulties of your wayward cats, Glenn.

    I have yet to encounter a skunk. Needless to say, they don't exist in Australia but this product to deal with their unwanted stink sounds fantastic.

    Thanks, Glenn.

    Reply
  57. Elisabeth
    February 15, 2011 at 10:51 am (6 years ago)

    Our dog is adjusting to his new routine well, Jane.

    I need to point out now to everyone here, that he's a happy chappy.

    My daughter tells me that this post reads as though I have no love for dogs whatsoever.

    It's not so. I have mixed feelings, as I suspect do most people.

    Thanks Jane.

    Reply
  58. Elisabeth
    February 15, 2011 at 10:58 am (6 years ago)

    A Virginia Woolf moment indeed, Tracy/Phoenix and Woolf never had to care for dogs or children, or whatever else might typically assail a woman of our times, but I'd rather have my lot than hers anyday.

    She lived in times when women were far more oppressed – at least western women – than now. And what with her sensibilities, it must have been ghastly.

    As for the balance of pleasures and responsibilities, vis a vis pets, I couldn't agree more.

    Thanks, Tracey – with an 'e' or without an 'e' , I'm never quite sure. Tracy/Tracey/ Phoenix.

    Reply
  59. Elisabeth
    February 15, 2011 at 11:02 am (6 years ago)

    I can't quite understand the business of your daughter's dog's 'distended' bladder, here Kass.

    Is the dog confined indoors all day and therefore you visit to offer a toilet break?

    Whatever, you are a hero, Kass. I know the feeling, that deep identification with all creatures – human or animal – who are vulnerable.

    Thanks again, Kass.

    Reply
  60. Phoenix
    February 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm (6 years ago)

    I will answer to just about anything (including "Stacey", the name of my best friend in high school) but it's spelled Tracy. Don't worry if you spell it with an "e", I don't get insulted very easily about that kind of stuff. 🙂

    And may I say – your gentle and loving but firm chiding of RH is such a fantastic example to set for others on how to treat their commenters – and how to have dialogue with them. I admire you more and more every time I read your blog.

    Reply
  61. vazambam
    February 16, 2011 at 6:29 am (6 years ago)

    Well, I'll put it in the present and hope someone in the future puts it in the past: "She writes well."

    You do indeed, Elisabeth.

    Reply
  62. Elisabeth
    February 16, 2011 at 7:54 am (6 years ago)

    I can cope with the odd negative comment directed towards my blog, RH, but not towards others. So I have to ask you to try again. Please resist the impulse to direct comments here that have a hint of derision towards other bloggers.

    I understand your point about certain folk, but I don't think they would. They'd be hurt. As would I if such comments were directed towards me.

    Maybe we are all too sensitive and thin skinned in the blogosphere but I can't see any value in hurting people's feelings unnecessarily.

    Reply
  63. Kass
    February 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm (6 years ago)

    Yes, Elisabeth, the dog would be confined for over 8 hours if I didn't go over and walk her and facilitate the emptying of her bladder. I then bring her to my house so she has company. My daughter, Mary Ann lives in my mother's house while we are getting it ready to sell. It is a very short distance away so I usually walk over and walk her back to my house.

    Reply
  64. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2011 at 8:00 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks Tracy, now that I know I shall use the correct spelling of your name in the future.

    Reply
  65. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2011 at 8:02 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks for the reassurance, Vassilis, even as I have hopes for my gravestone in the future, it's a comfort to be reassured in the present.

    Reply
  66. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2011 at 8:03 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks, Kass. It all makes sense now.

    Reply
  67. KleinsteMotte
    February 17, 2011 at 7:49 pm (6 years ago)

    I enjoyed this post. I felt rather sad for the pooch but that's porbably the point, right? In our neighbour hood the sound of barking as well as the sound of kids outdoors has vanished. But cars and buses roll by loudly. Too many of them. Times have changed.

    Reply
  68. forgetmenow
    February 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm (6 years ago)

    it struck me that dog's a metaphor

    life and otherlives don't really "get it" when there's this, that and the next thing to be "done" but your mind's tearing ideas up into bright kaleidoscopes and you want to spend the next twelve hours alone, watching how the shapes and colours clash and merge, work with them … but then you'd be a negligent wife/mother/(insert any applicable role-definition here)

    that alone, plus the guilt and love of course, makes a soul howl and bark a bit, eh?

    just my take on this well-written piece …

    Reply
  69. Elisabeth
    February 18, 2011 at 9:25 am (6 years ago)

    Times change, Kleinstemotte. There was a time when dogs roamed free. Not any more. Dogs now must by law be corralled and confined, kept on a leash almost all of the time. Children too to some extent.

    Thanks, Kleinstemotte.

    Reply
  70. Elisabeth
    February 18, 2011 at 9:28 am (6 years ago)

    The dog is real Forgetmenow and the dog is also as you say a metaphor, a wonderful metaphor, and thank you for noticing.

    That howling yowling kaleidoscope of life is enough to make a soul weep and laugh in one burst.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  71. Dutchbaby
    February 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm (6 years ago)

    I do believe this is the first time I've seen an analogy of Jane Eyre and a dog. Dogs are very time-consuming. I'm afraid if I owned a dog, it would be relegated to the attic like Grace Poole. I'm barely holding my own with the 30-gallon fish tank.

    Spring cleaning is a crashing bore. I don't blame you for refusing to do it yourself. Blogging is so much more fun.

    Reply
  72. nick
    February 19, 2011 at 9:32 pm (6 years ago)

    I'd love to know what dogs think of us when we talk to them… it can't be good.

    Reply
  73. farthestnorth1
    February 24, 2011 at 11:47 pm (6 years ago)

    Thank you for this Lis. I feel guilty about dogs too. They are social animals and should not live alone; that is, they should have a companion of their own kind. I had a dog for many years, who was acquired for my son. He loved her to death but did not look after her. He slept with his arms around her. I said 'what will you do when you get a girlfriend?' 'Oh,' he said, 'she can sleep at the bottom of the bed.' I passed the dog on, eventually, after my son and I parted for separate lives, to a friend who loved her more than I did. He cared for her and adored her until she finally had to be euthanased, when she had become senile and incontinent.
    Children move on with their lives, and pets are left behind, and it is often the mothers who end up caring for them into old age.
    Your writing is your life, and housework is well sacrificed for it.

    christina

    Reply
  74. Elisabeth
    February 25, 2011 at 9:45 am (6 years ago)

    The dog has settled down well into his new routine and seems happier for it, in spite of my angst in this post.

    It's true, as you say that more often than not when children move on the parents are left to care for their abandoned pets.

    I knew this from the start. I expect my daughters did too, though they also consider the dog to be their pet in spite of their absences, just as our home is their home despite their absences.

    Something like the cycle of the generations.

    Thanks, Christina.

    Reply
  75. Miss Sadie
    March 7, 2011 at 9:46 am (6 years ago)

    Ironic that you're talking about your dog. I've a story to tell, but not yet.

    Thanks for visiting us.

    Reply
  76. Elisabeth
    March 8, 2011 at 10:04 am (6 years ago)

    I'm curious to know your dog story, Sadie. Please let me know when you hold forth. In the meantime thanks for visiting.

    Reply

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