On April 6th last year, I went to Bush Hall with my friend Rachel and saw Sharon Robinson sing. As Leonard The Man would say, the incomparable Sharon Robinson… and, it was the very last day of life before Leonard The Dog.
The next day, my friend Wendy drove me to a smallholding in Cambridgeshire and we brought a small dog home.
I loved Leonard before he was even in the world. I loved him as a possibility in my heart and a shard of grace in the mystery. I loved him when I met him aged 5 weeks and he breathed a tiny out-breath on my chest.
Oh, I said. So you’re Leonard.
First day home
I loved him immediately he became my dog. Yes indeed, instant love. And then came discovering and uncovering him.
Funny thing about falling in love, that it both does and doesn’t take time. I knew I loved him, but I didn’t know who he was… now I know I love him, and I know him. He’s in the beat and breath of me.
We’ve learned each other through the turning of this year.
He makes me laugh. Often. He makes me laugh in the bleakest moments, when it’s all, just too much to bear. He’s a natural comedian. He helps me remember that this life is tender, funny and awful, in equal and unequal measure.
Leonard meets Pip Bed World
Let me tell you our morning story. As those of you who kindly read me, know, mornings are always a shock. I struggle up from the dust of dreams, resisting consciousness with all my might. I mutter and mumble and groan. Every morning, Leonard The Dog meets and greets me on this border and brings me in. He’s so happy to see me. I get my face washed all over. Now, for some that might seem very unhygienic, but for me this is a daily blessing. My favorite bit is when he kisses my closed eyelids…
After the dog kisses and a short grace period, Leonard starts getting me up. He gets a particular glint in his lovely, brown eyes. He barks. I call it, The Bark Of Longing. It is shrill. And when I beg him for mercy, for five more minutes, he gets hold of my bedding with his teeth and tugs. I laugh and groan. I get up. He’s happy, and it has to be said, a tad triumphant. It takes less than an hour to get from first blink of my horrified eye, to walking out the front door with Leonard. It’s a repetitive movement. It’s a meditation. It’s loving a dog. And given how I have excelled at falling and failing in the mornings, sometimes for days on end, it’s nothing short of a miracle.
Many things that I love about being with Leonard, I’m very aware some might say about being with a lover. I haven’t gone completely nuts. It’s not an erotic thing. But, gosh, it is so very physical and sensual. I adore his little body, the way he looks and how he feels under my hands. I like the way he smells and how he runs, and how soft his fur is. I’ve learned his sounds and his rhythms. He snores. I wake up in the night and he’s there. I dream about losing him sometimes and have to wake up and check. He’s there.
I’ve had some fine lovers in my time and a few brave attempts at making a partnership. It has taken a long time to understand, that while I am capable of great depth and intimacy, I’m not really built for sustained proximity. I need a lot of space and solitude. Otherwise I can’t breath. I can breathe deep and freely in my dog love affair. I tell him the story of us, as we amble and romp. Going out and coming back in again with Leonard is something I now do twice a day. Everyday. These slow walks are bookends to each day. It is an intimate thing to walk through a whole year of days, with the one you love.
He’s gregarious and open. He expects the world to love him back. Mostly it does. He knows me too. Of course he’s not writing blog posts and poems about me… but he knows that I belong to him. I’m his person and he’s my dog. He has taken me in and I live inside him as he does in me. It is quite something, to be loved and trusted by a dog
Getting Leonard is the best decision I’ve ever made. The very best. He hasn’t cured my depression. Of course he hasn’t. But he’s showing how it can be to move more with the weight of me. That old embodied despair can walk and walk and walk… walking with Leonard is a prayer and I need it. Dog prayer. The very best medicine for this ravaged heart.
Thank you, dear Leonard, for our first year. Thank you for being my dog.