Saturday, August 04, 2012

Small World

This time two months ago I was making the final preparations for a family holiday in Spain. I'd booked it during a moment of foolhardy optimism on New Year's Day, blithely disregarding our oldest son's agoraphobia and my fear of flying.

Three months later, the whole idea seemed absurd and I was tempted to cancel the booking. But I naively clung on to the belief that if we could take our son away from his comfort zone to a beautiful place with warm seas and blue skies, he would be transformed. Some people never learn.

As for the fear of flying, I decided to undergo a course of hypnotherapy sessions with a lovely woman who came highly recommended. The hynotherapy seemed to be very successful. Within minutes of arriving, she was able to put me into a deep trance and induce a feeling of tranquility that I hadn't enjoyed since I was a foetus.

Sadly, when I sat on a plane for the first time in six years, I realised that instead of being cured of my phobia, I had merely been hypnotised into believing that I wasn't scared of flying. When the plane took off, everything changed and the three-hour flight was one long silent scream.

Since then, I've been feeling rather gloomy. My son won't travel beyond the environs of Lewes and I seem to be limited to a damp part of northwestern Europe.

As if that wasn't enough, my wife casually announced that she'd agreed to look after someone's dog for five weeks, adding a further layer of restrictions to our movements. My world, which once extended to South America, had now contracted to a tiny, dog-friendly corner of England. I wasn't happy.

But then, one afternoon, I walked in the front door and found a small border terrier looking up at me, with trusting brown eyes. "This is Maisy", my wife solemnly announced. Maisy ambled towards me and jumped up, gently resting her paws on my legs. I smiled nervously, hoping that she wouldn't damage the sofa.

In many ways, Maisy is the ideal dog. At home she is only slightly more animated than a stuffed toy, which is perfect, but outdoors she becomes far more active and performs the sorts of tricks that children expect from dogs. I can't say that I particularly relish the hairs and the smell, or having my face licked, but I'm grateful to her for getting my sons out of the house.

The South Downs are less than ten minutes' walk from our front door, but persuading the boys to go there is usually almost impossible. If they do agree to have a walk, the continual carping and moaning puts a bit of a dampener on things. But since Maisy joined us, they've been up on the Downs every day:




(Trivia fact - this is the site of the Battle of Lewes in 1264, which resulted in the birth of parliamentary democracy)

Seeing my youngest son swinging on a farm gate, describing it as "The best fun ever" made me realise that I had to put all of my reservations about the smell, the hairs, the inconvenience and, worst of all, the poo, to one side. If this is the price I have to pay for getting my sons to swap the virtual world for the real one, then so be it.

Sadly, for the boys, this is a holiday romance that will have to end. In just over a month, Maisy's real family will return from their absurdly long holiday in France and I suspect that the house will be very quiet without her.

20 comments:

Kid said...

Ah, dogs. Truly, man's best friend. Time to get yourself a dog, me old son.

Mrs Jones said...

So - get a dog, then? I lurve border terriers with their little otter-y faces and would love to have one of my very own, but after having animals in the house for the last 16 or so years, I've decided that when the present one goes to his eternal reward, Jones Towers is going to be pet-free for a while, not least to enable us to do some travelling for once!

Martin said...

You'll be getting a dog of your own, then? Our daughter and family are due to pick up a chocolate labrador pup later this month. The grandchildren are very excited.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, Steerforth! Get a Maisy-type dog! It could go to work with you in term-time and be the reason the boys get out and about during holidays... AnnaC

Rog said...

I think the case rests. OK, so you won't be able to drive round Gibraltar ....

Little Nell said...

Maisy looks very much at home on the Downs.Let's hope the owners have to rush off somewhere else soon.

jakecantona said...

Great to see your boys enjoying the dog and the outdoors. My son has just discovered the joys of kicking balls other than the ones permanently attached to his father, so I can share some of your feelings about getting outside. On a pedantic note re the Battle of Lewes, I'd argue that we're still waiting for true parliamentary democracy.

Desperate Reader said...

Sounds like time to get a dog...

LUCEWOMAN said...

I'm such a negative person. My response is; get a dog! The novelty will last for up to a year before it pisses you off and the boys get bored.

Feel free to tell me off, everyone...

George H. said...

I had a border terrier for 15 years. I should have cancelled my health insurance, because that dog did more for me than any human healer.

Canadian Chickadee said...

George, I agree! I had a beagle mix that I called my doggie nurse. He kept checking to make sure I hadn't died when I had a migraine and lay without moving for half a day at a time. His name was Barney and I still miss him, even though we've had other dogs since he passed away of cancer. That's the only down side of dogs -- even the best and the healthiest only last about ten years. But sometimes that's enough to get us through a really rocky patch and I can't imagine living without one -- muddy paw prints, shedding hair, boarding problems and all. Worth every minute of it.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Well I'm sure you had to deal with smell and poo when your boys were small so what's the difference? Can operating a pooper scooper possibly be worse than changing a full nappy? Less trouble, if anything.

But agreed I don't let dogs lick my face either, much though I love dogs! A few shed hairs is a small price to pay for such bundles of joy and life, and can be reduced through daily grooming.

Delighted to hear of Daisy's wondrous transformation of your boys' aversion to going anywhere and hope it inspires you to get a mutt of your own or even one each for the boys. Pets are so fantastic for children. My own childhood revolved around our cats and the funny and cute things they got up to and would have been very bleak without them, much though your family scenario sounds a much happier one.

peezedtee said...

Re fear of flying, it is now possible to go to Spain by train (I have done it). See http://www.seat61.com/

Alternatively, BA has a one-day course where they brainwash you into thinking that flying is safe. I took it once and it worked for a few years, but the effect has worn off now, especially since the Air France crash off Brazil.

Steerforth said...

I've flown along that route, from Brazil to Madrid. I can't say that it was the most enjoyable experience and that, plus an American airlines flight I took from Boston to LA one September morning, helped to increase my paranoia about air travel.

Ironically, the only near-death experience I had was on a train, but I still prefer travelling by rail.

I've seen the 'Seat 61' site - it's wonderful. If only it had been around when I went interrailing.

Steerforth said...

Re: the dog, we are now looking after two - a border terrier and a jack russell - and I can honestly say that this has been one of the worst weekends I've had for long time. I can't wait to be dog-free again.

May said...

Why don't you take a sleeping pill just before boarding?

We got our first dog three months ago and I am madly in love with him. Do you want to see a picture?

Steerforth said...

Go on then ;)

Sleeping pills would be great, but I'm always the only one who can drive at the other end, so I have to remain alert.

May said...

I see. Well, you might try some drug that doesn't induce sleep. I wish I could live my whole life anxiety-free.

Hmm, I don't think that it is possible to upload a photo on somebody else's blog. There are photos of my lovely Samoyed (and of our cute bunnies) on my blog. Only, it is a private blog and I need your e-mail to sign you in.

Steerforth said...

It's steerforth@live.co.uk

May said...

Already done!
Silly me who did not check your profile (am not too used to read blogs)