Tuesday, May 10, 2022

5 Things My Dog Taught Me About Life and Writing

Ovidia--every other Tuesday

Princess, our beloved 19 year old dog, died last Wednesday after twelve years with us.

I've been finding it difficult to get used to writing without her by on my lap or by my feet, so instead of  trying to write something cheem (untranslatable Singlish term meaning  complex/ intricate/ confounding) today, I'm just going to put down some of my memories and list five of her lessons I hope to keep in my life with her gone.

5. Pee (just to say 'Hi) every chance you get.

She was an angel about never going indoors or on leashed walks, but when running free in a dog park Princess never passed a tree/ post/ communal doggy lav spot worth sniffing at without leaving her mark.

This wasn't just about emptying her bladder, we learned. In some complicated canine communication code, she was leaving a comment on doggy social media to let others know 'I'm here, I'm alive and I'm acknowledging you who my nose tells me has been here too!' 

No requests, no demands--just a happy, healthy dog response to other dogs.

I'm going to try doing that more consistently in my life too. Though not with pee. Like leaving a little comment or 'like's on social media or in response to emails or a blog posts.  Writers are sensitive creatures who tend to worry when this nice stinky post we've set up fails to get any response even when we've peed on it the best we can. 

And it's not just about making someone else feel good either. It reminds me I'm not writing in a vacuum, though it feels that way sometimes. 

4. Always be ready/ willing/ eager to go outside (of the house and of comfort zones)

I think Princess was happy at home (which was made over to suit them--steps then ramps up to our bed, passages between rooms and patios) but she was always ready for an adventure. 

New dog cafes, new dog runs, dog friendly hotels, restaurants with pet friendly areas... pre-Covid, we went out a lot more because of them.

All this forced me to step outside my own comfort zone which was very good for me. I love being home and my comfort zone keeps shrinking. 

But exploring places and experiences in dog-mode also led to reading books and watching shows in genres I'm not comfortable with.  Because there's no set path to what you want to learn and grow into next, the best you can do is follow your heart and your nose and sniff and taste everything. 

Then you can decide whether to eat it or roll in it or bring it home to Mom. 

I'm going to make a point to go out more to unfamiliar places and pick up books I wouldn't otherwise, the way Princess would have.

3. Fall Asleep whenever your human reads her writing to you whenever you get the chance

Yes, she and her sister fell asleep whenever I read to them. I like to think it was due to the soothing sound of my voice, because they'd wake up when I stopped.

I'm going to go on reading aloud, even without Princess around to be put to sleep.  It's one of the best ways I know of filtering out the filler I stuff in without realising it. 

But also, I'm going to try to sleep more. I think we humans don't sleep enough, don't play enough, don't give ourselves enough downtime to catch up with ourselves.  

I love how Princess and Hermione The Duchess could flip from 100% power to flopping on their bellies to go to sleep... and vice versa.

Yes, I'm going to try to sleep a lot more. I'll miss the warm white shadow in our bed though!

2. Always be ready to interact with the world around you 

Friends come in weird guises, no matter how weirdly different they look at first, 

(She ended up in the turtle pond after this photo was taken)

Getting up to check on and cuddle the dogs between writing pomos made me stretch and move around. And since every hour or two we would go down to the small park next door (longer walks twice a day in the larger park across the road) I got a lot more exercise and sunshine than I would have otherwise.

It didn't just make my Fitbit happy either. Somehow getting outside and walking around helps untangle plot problems faster than staring at your screen until it's dark outside and your eyes are smarting.

I haven't been moving around much in the week (a day short of a week) since Princess died and I can already feel the difference... it's not just sadness that's making me sluggish. It's the writing slug routine that's kept me at the computer without breaks till I reach my quota--which is taking more hours a day than ever before.

So--I'm going to give myself breaks to get up and walk around and even go outside to the parks, even though there's no dog to walk me there. I'm perfectly capable of walking myself without a leash. 

1. Living in the now

Our Princess was a rescue dog who must have had a hard life before she came to us. We don't know who her previous owners are (which is why they're probably still be alive) but when we got her from the SPCA they told us hikers had found her tied up in the MacRitchie Forest Reserve.

She'd probably been there for a couple of days at least. Lucky for her, she was abandoned during the monsoon season, and the rainstorms provided enough water to keep her alive. When we first saw her she was bald (shaved to treat skin problems), agonisingly skinny and had had to have several of her teeth removed because she'd damaged them trying to chew herself free.

I'd understand if, after that, she distrusted all humans. But once she understood we were now her pack, she accepted us totally. And she was the most loving, joyful dog ever. As long as you didn't bite or stick a needle in her, she was ready to be your best friend. (And if you did stick a needle in her she'd forgive you once you scratched her ears) 

To her, the past was completely forgotten, irrelevant, kaput. 

But though I agree with living in the present, this is one lesson I'm not going to take completely from her. 

Even as Princess becomes part of my past, I want to carry the gift of her into my 'now' and keeping it with me. And today's piece--and its lessons are part of that. 

Thank you for sharing her memory with me.


  1. Thank you for sharing her with us, Ovidia. You will miss her...

  2. Condolences to you Ovidia. I find that our 4-legged animal friends can teach us so much about life and living--patience, kindness, acceptance...

  3. God bless her sweet soul, and all the joy she brought to you, dear Ovidia.