April 14th 2020
I saw a photo of you today and I think my dream of having a dog might finally come true. No pressure, but you looked adorable in the photo sent by Mary at the rescue group. You’re a lurcher, about a year old, quiet and sweet and housetrained, she said. Too good to be true, I worried.
All the rescue groups have been so busy, I had to nudge them a few times. The two big dog charities had to close early in lockdown as they operated out of shelters. So we’ve dealt with local foster groups instead who operate out of the kindness of people’s homes. Loads of people across Ireland are contacting them to adopt a dog, but they groups are really anxious that people adopt for the right reasons – a dog is for life, not just for Covid.
We’ve been thinking for ages about adopting a dog. Well, two out of the four of us have: Mags, our eldest, and myself. And it was only when Robert – one of those dog-sceptical men – met a gorgeous lurcher recently did he start to think he might cave in and say yes to getting a family dog. As long as it was a lurker… he meant lurcher.
April 17th 2020
The kids loved the latest photos we got of you today and we also heard you did well at the vet and that you could be ready for us to meet next week!
It’s been over a month since we (humans) were told to stay put, to not go anywhere, work and study and play at home. No-one knows how it will all play out, but I think this could go on for months. We won’t be going to see the family in Canada this summer, and the big wedding there has already been postponed til next year. So it seems like brilliant timing to have a dog in the house, to get used to each other, train you, and train ourselves to look after you.
And when the time comes to go back to work, one of us was always working from home anyway. So we didn’t have to think that through.
All the rescue groups we talked to are so kind, and so careful about the dogs they care for. They had to come and check out our house and garden and family routine to make sure we weren’t an irresponsible bunch who wouldn’t manage a dog once life returned to normal. “If ever it does”, we laughed. One of the groups did their check after lockdown started, and we did that all by WhatsApp instead of meeting them, sending them videos of our garden and house to get their approval and get on their waiting list.
April 21st 2020
I’m going to meet you on Saturday and probably bring you home with me. We’re so excited, it’s like Christmas! We can’t talk about anything else in the house – not that there was much to talk about anyway.
I just realised today we can actually pick up a few basics we’ll need – like a dog bed and leash, collar and food – because pet shops are considered an essential service and have been open all this time. I also checked with our local vet if they’re open. They were delighted to hear we were taking in a rescue dog but they’d only be available for emergencies and they’ll give you a full check-up when things “get back to normal”.
April 24th 2020
Seeing as I’ll be coming to meet you tomorrow outside Dublin – and beyond our 2km range – I got a letter from Mary that I can show any Gardaí who might stop me along the way. The letter says I’m out and about for an animal welfare issue. It’s also simpler if I go alone. I’m a little nervous about it, it’s actually been quite nice to stay close to home the last few weeks.
April 25th 2020
Driving out of Dublin and into the countryside today felt a bit wild, like I was on holiday. I had my “get-out-of-jail” letter from Mary but I saw no checkpoints on the way. The motorway was full of trucks and lorries, all couriers bringing the homebound people of Ireland their supplies of summer shoes and garden furniture, books and PlayStations.
Mary drove up with you from her farm in Laois and our assignation point was an empty car park outside Naas. She had you out walking on the grass verge outside Pet Stop and I found you there. Your brown eyes shone when I looked at you, you stuck your long head into the crook of my arm and yourself into my heart. I took a quick selfie of the two of us and sent it to the breathless family back home. By the time they called me back with loads of questions, I had already signed off the paperwork (we had to sanitise the pen), figured out how to get you securely into the car, and you and I were already heading up the M7. Mary said I could go home and think about you first, but I wasn’t planning on coming back down again. This was it. You had a home to go to now.
Today will be known as your Gotcha Day. That’s what they call it – instead of having a birthday (as no-one knows when you were born) we’ll be celebrating your Gotcha Day every year on this date.
April 28th 2020
You don’t know how much we love having you to distract us. And has a dog ever had its every single movement (including the digestive ones) talked about, examined, anticipated so much before. Maybe it’s just because of lockdown, and we were just all so ready to have something new to talk about.
You’re still a bit nervous, not sure of where you are, or sure about us. It will take a few weeks, or months, but that’s one thing we do have.
They say that when you pet a dog your body makes endorphins and it really is true – it makes you feel good and happy. God knows, we could all do with a good dose of endorphins right now. Maybe we should rent you out. Actually, no we won’t.
May 1st 2020
We saw you run for the first time today out in the field and it took our breath away! Your legs might be long and bony but when they work with those big haunches they’re so powerful.
When we’re out for a walk, people often tell us you’re gorgeous, with your big brown eyes and fawn colour – that’s nice to hear but it’s hard to know what to say. I can’t really say thank you, as I didn’t pick you out of a beauty line-up. You were the dog we got, the one that was available and thought best suitable. And we couldn’t really wait much longer, in case the man of the house might start changing his mind on the dog plan.
May 5th 2020
We don’t know what kind of life you had before you were rescued from that pound in Wexford and we got to take you home. But I do know that you’re frightened of the sweeping brush and the hoover, and the motorbike down the road. And you’re terrified of the two hurling sticks my husband picked up in Aldi with the hope of picking up a new sport with Aoife, which they’re working on once a day in the field beside us.
Getting the kids out for some kind of exercise feels like a full-time job sometimes. Other parents tell me the same. I don’t know if kids are nervous about the virus, or how to behave or just naturally want to stay idle. “It’s good to be bored” I tell them when I get them off their screens. I wish I had some time to be bored.
May 11th 2020
You were sitting with us on the couch tonight while we watched the next episode of that old British Bake-Off on TV (we’re finally catching up) and we decided that you’re actually a cat-dog. You’re a lot bonier and about three times as big as a cat but you’re a watcher and a lounger. You don’t bark, you love to curl up on the chair by the window or spread your belly over someone’s lap or up in the air while on your back.
We were warned about lurchers loving couches so maybe we should think about getting another one to fit you. But, actually no: it’s taken so long for my new home-office desk to arrive, (once I had finally found one on a second-rate Ikea site) that I don’t think I’m bothered to shop online for a couch now as well.
May 12th 2020
I’m really happy to have my new desk set up in the smallest bedroom, though Aoife’s not thrilled about her room being taken over. But it means I have a space where I can shut the door and do my work with no-one else in the room. From the start of lockdown I’ve felt blessed to have my job, to have something to focus on everyday and as it’s education-related, to help other people too. So many people are out of work, temporarily off, or facing really uncertain futures. It’s probably going to get worse. It’s awful.
But back to you Bella. Would you mind not trying to push the door open to say hello while I’m at my desk? My work colleagues have heard all about you, but they might think it a bit weird to see you try to get up on my lap. I know you find it confusing there are other voices in the little room where I am but these meetings with voices is the closest thing I have to an office (and the company of adults) right now.
Next time you want attention try another room in the house, see if one of the kids has finished her homework or facetime check-in with friends – see if they’ll take you out for a walk. That was part of the deal.
May 16th 2020
I know you love people but would you stop trying to say hello to every stranger you meet. It’s really nice but not everyone wants to stop and say hi these days. People are a bit nervous, of other people, of germs, of human contact.
Even our neighbours on our road – we haven’t met as many in lockdown as I would have thought. Not every community, estate, or cul de sac in Ireland has seen the warm, fuzzy street camaraderie that has touched our needy hearts on the evening news. You were a bit puzzled by the people shouting and clapping out their doors every night, but that didn’t last too long around here. That’s just the way it is.
May 18th 2020
Today must have been the fifth time we brought you to the off-leash dog park and it’s lovely you get your run in with your new friends – Molly and Ben, Harry and Hermione. But it’s actually been really nice for us humans too. We’ve been able to get to know random people, during these days when we can’t go to the pub, or chat to people on buses or have spontaneous chats with office mates about all kinds of things. It’s a bit like bringing the kids to a playground when they were little and you’d strike up a chat with other parents.
We’ve been able to see how other people are dealing with the lockdown and I think a lot of people already had a dog because they’re on the own, and perhaps quite lonely now, so getting out with their dog helps them deal with some of that. One man comes with his dog and sits on a bench to read his book, the dog staying close beside him and both of them keeping their own peaceful distance and getting the fresh air.
May 22nd 2020
I realised today that when Mags and I take you out for a walk together, she and I have a proper chat. The kind of chat I think we had stopped having in the last year, and the kind that’s so vital between a mum and her daughter. It’s like having a third presence between us which makes it easier for her to open up and talk about all sorts of stuff. Which is so good, as life can be overwhelming at the best of times when you’re 14. And these are not the best of times. She misses her friends, her routine, and (she might not admit it) school. She’s managing great but it’s just not normal, being at home with her family 24 hours a day, chatting only occasionally with friends, and not knowing when things will settle down.
I had heard that a dog in the house is really good for teenagers, especially girls, and I think your soft heart and big brown eyes are only doing her good. She can give you a good hug when she might think no-one else in the house deserves one. Oh, and I hope you don’t mind showing up quite regularly on Instagram.
Her younger sister still says she wants a cat. But we’ll just have to wait for the next pandemic for that.
May 24th 2020
We brought you to the beach for the first time today and you didn’t know what to make of it. We couldn’t get you to even dip your feet in the water – the kids thought that maybe the sound of the waves was too loud for you. But two of us went all the way in for a swim and it really wasn’t as cold as we thought it would be. We’ll have to start going regularly this summer. Especially if we can’t go to any warmer beaches, like we might have done normally.
There are loads of lovely places we can go to in Ireland, though let’s hope this amazing good weather will stay when “school” is “finished”. We’re really lucky that we have we have sea and hills and woods within 5km of us. It’s a bit annoying that every other family around is also exploring all these places too so we have to pick the right times to bring you out to enjoy them and have a bit of freedom. And find a parking spot.
May 28th 2020
It looks like you’ve discovered the trampoline. I was working at my desk earlier and heard a strange squeaka-squeaka out in the garden. Then a thump. That was you jumping down off the trampoline, which doesn’t have a ladder. It’s good to see someone is using it – the kids have gotten a bit tired of it at this stage. It was a lifesaver early in the lockdown and their Dad got them on there once a day as a break from schoolwork. Until he pulled a muscle in his leg. And then they lost interest.
Anyway, you keep at it Bella. At this stage maybe you need some space of your own and that’s where you’ve found it.
June 5th 2020
Home-school is all finished up now so the kids are happy, though I worry about them having too much time indoors. It’s hard to manage when I’m working myself all day in a closed room. Oh, and the lockdown started a new phase today, still no sign of hairdressers, creches and summer camps opening, but at least your cousins down in Shelbourne Road can start their mad greyhound racing again. Behind “closed doors”, however that’s going to work!
June 15th 2020
I heard my office is going to reopen in August – just for two days a week for anyone who actually wants to come in. I’ll be there in a flash but my husband will keep working fulltime from home.
As for the kids. Well in September they might start going back to school, five days a week. School is a great – it’s this amazing place where they socialize with other kids, do arts and sports, and learn all sorts of things from teachers who stand right there in front of them. It’s a brilliant arrangement for all concerned.
Aoife was looking forward to taking you on the walk to school each morning with her Dad. You’re really like that as you’ll be smothered in attention at the school gate. So let’s hope you’ll get to experience that before too long.
July 21st 2020
Well done for surviving your first family holiday. When you got in the car, you probably thought you were heading up to the dog park, but you did so well on that four-hour drive up and down to Antrim. How patient you were to sit for hours squashed in between the two girls and their books, blankets and crisps wrappers. Not a peep out of you, just the odd fart.
You even climbed all over the Giant’s Causeway in the rain. The first time I’ve ever been there and me in my 40s. The whole area was wonderfully quiet, empty of the tourist buses that usually fill the roads with visitors from China, the US, all over. The peace was really nice for us but not great for all the local businesses.
August 4th 2020
The latest news now is that the pubs are not going to open as planned next week – which doesn’t bother us either way – and that they’ll probably open now on September 1st. That was the same date Mags’s school was due to reopen but the principal finally sent us a message today to say that they won’t be ready by then as they have to follow the government’s advice on how to get the school ready for several hundred kids and teachers. Either way, it’s still obvious that the pubs will open before schools. That’s Ireland for you.
None of these really affects you, you’re just happy to lounge around a lot of the day, sniff around the kitchen, snap at bumblebees and wait for your trips to the park. All of which make you the ideal pet for us.
Live in the moment, that’s what you do. You could teach us all a lesson.
Published in the journal Pendemic.ie in August 2020