Friday, March 13, 2015
Happy Birthday Charlie - Love Jon
As I write this, our (almost) four year old black Labrador is splayed out across our hard wooden floor, watching me intently as I type in my study. He has the option of two dog beds, one human bed (yeah, we tried to keep him off at first), one armchair, one large sofa and three rugs on which to make himself comfortable, but he chooses the hardest surfaces he can find for himself. Why? Because he has mastered the victim complex; despite a life of fulfillment, luxury, and the presence of numerous hard-working adults prepared to drop everything on his behalf, he has mastered the art of appearing forlorn and overlooked as a highly effective means of asserting his presence. I really don’t ask for much, his sad little yellow eyes say, except for the complete and undivided attention and subservience of everyone in this household whenever I demand it. Is that so much to ask?
Charlie's birthday is tomorrow, and he’s a huge presence (literally and emotionally) in our lives. People demand binary statuses when it comes to stating a pet preference, so under those conditions I’ve always firmly been a cat person. I have two awesome family cats back in the UK, Tiffy and Topsy, who I miss terribly, and I have to admit that I’ve sometimes looked down on dogs because of their tendency to display unconditional affection. As a typical British person, I’m naturally suspicious of friendliness and prefer to start relationships with people based on mutual suspicion before gradually using alcohol as a replacement for talking when it comes to getting to know one another. Cats are exactly the same, except with head scratches replacing booze.
However, Charlie’s different. When I showed up on Betsy’s doorstep in September to start my new life in the USA, his enthusiastic greeting practically floored me (again, literally and emotionally). I was worried that Charlie would resent the presence of a new love in Betsy’s life, and the situation would be like a middle-aged man trying to bond with his new wife’s surly teenage son. As a precaution, I came armed with treats and every other bribe I could think of (particularly things that squeaked). Charlie didn’t see things that way, though; instead, he saw me as a whole new person to do his bidding! Betsy won’t feed me at the table, but hey, maybe this new guy will! Betsy shifts me over when I cut off the circulation to her legs, so let’s try lying on Jon! Charlie welcomed me wholehearted and enthusiastically, and, as long as I continue to abide by the few small things he asks of me (see first paragraph), I’m ok by him.
So happy birthday, Charlie! Thank you for welcoming me so affectionately and not peeing in my shoes. There are always challenges when starting life in a new country, particularly when I was mostly working from home and searching for a full-time job here. Having him keeping me company, and knowing when to smile/gurn/pant at me when things were frustrating, made a huge difference and kept me sane through a difficult first few months. I’m still not 100% a dog person in general, but I am most definitely a Charlie person.