The arrival of the puppy has sparked a shift in my older dog which I hadn’t anticipated and reminds me of a shift that once took place in me.
Bringing a new dog into the family caused us to worry that our established dog would protest. In fact, it has unlocked a second childhood in her.
“Do they get on well?” people sometimes ask.
“Almost too well,” I reply, wondering how many hours it will be until they tire themselves out and stop wrestling on the sofa.
Each morning on our walk Daisy and I used to play football behind the tennis courts.
I’d hoof the ball into the distance, and she would tear off after it, collecting it in her mouth before tearing back and dropping it at my feet.
She’d tilt her head backward indicating that she wanted me to kick it again.
Some months ago she lost interest in playing but I’d take the ball anyway and pull it from the bag by the tennis courts.
“Want to play?” I’d say as she sauntered off into the distance sniffing at thistles.
I’d kick the ball alone, seeing if I could land it on specific patches of grass, celebrating to myself when I did.
Now, she wants to play football again, with the puppy.
My constant desire to play feels life-affirming and melancholic all at once.
As a child, I felt lonely with siblings five and eleven years older.
I never played a game with my brother, and I can remember the feeling of elation if my sister ever agreed to do so.
I’m the same now, except that it’s usually either me asking my own children, or the dog.
In lockdown, when the children were getting bored of staying inside I bought some new games for the console in a magnanimous gesture, but I was always more excited to play than they were, and happy to continue after they’d lost interest.
When, after years of therapy, I recognised the disconnect between myself and the child within it wasn’t much of a revelation.
What I felt most of all was the hopelessness that I would ever be able to connect with that little boy the way I needed to, but over time, somehow, I managed it.
Now, clients often ask me, when they have reached the point where they recognise a disdain for their younger selves,
“How do you fix that?”
I always tell them that I don’t know and that my guess is that everyone does so differently. Perhaps it begins with belief or desire.
I recognise that professionally I’m not being much help.
I remember a therapist once telling me, “Believe in the process,” and I’ve often thought about how, even at my very lowest, I can remember believing I would get better.
Maybe that’s it.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned about my inner child is that although he cannot be ignored he cannot have things all his own way either.
As much as I like to play I recognise the need to behave like a grown-up too, sometimes.
Driving out of the park with the dogs in the back three ice cream vans are driving in readying themselves for an event later.
The thought of a cone in my hand, licking furiously before it drips all over my fingers stirs something in me and it’s all I can do to avoid taking a left and following the vans to pick myself up a cone.
Instead, I take the dogs home for their lunch and to put some washing out.
“What do you want for your birthday?” My son asks as I’m crushing tinned sardines with the back of a fork while the puppy pulls the wet washing from the basket.
I think for a moment.
“What I’d really like is a double “99” with raspberry sauce.”