|Sid, Boz and Lolo in the Bluebell Wood|
I've just returned from today's walk into the woods and fields with our three Sussex charges — Boz the border collie, Sid the long-legged Parson Russell terrier, and Boo, another Jack Russell, of the short-legged variety. And as often happens, Lolo the cat tagged along for a bit of today's walk, having met us at that place where the footpath leads from the rolling green fields into the wood with the ancient iron-red stream.
Lolo caught up with us just as we were very nearly home. But she was so happy to be with us, rubbing up against me as well as the terriers, and meowing, that I decided to extend our walk for her sake. And so back up the hill we trooped, Lolo characteristically chatting from behind until, all of a sudden, I could hear her galloping from behind into view, bunny hopping past me to join up with the dogs with her tail all bushed up.
On days like this I feel like Christopher Robin, and the world is good and full of cheer and birdsong. And it's as if these dogs, and Lolo — as well as the two cats back home, Colin and Tigger — are my Pooh Bear, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit and Roo and, well, Tigger.
We only arrived at this house- and pet-sit last Wednesday evening, and yet they seem, already, like old friends. I love them. We walk together, explore curiosities, and lie restfully amongst the bluebells and the swaying green grasses of spring. And we wrestle, or pretend to fight over sticks, Boo growling ferociously but harmless as a butterfly, the other dogs barking or grabbing hold of the stick in a four-way tug of war.
In just a few short days we've become a pack and know each other inside and out. In truth it seems we were always so, that our meeting was really a homecoming, that we'd trekked through these woods before, long before there was internet or even electricity wired into our homes.
But in a week's time, our hosts here will have returned home, and Mufidah and I will be gone, on our way to our next house/pet-sit in Essex, where we'll be caring for two more dogs, two more cats, and a pondful of fish. And we'll no doubt fit right into that pack as well, picking up where we left off with Boz and Co.
In a way it's tragic, this continual parting with dear friends whom we may or may not ever see again. They've become part of us, and we a part of them.
But we go on embedding ourselves into the lives of others knowing we'll soon be off into the wild blue.
What's the alternative but to harden one's heart, to become a social worker of sorts with a certain remove, a caretaker paid to service a patient, or in our case a pet. That's not us. We go right in, assume our place amongst the animal folk we befriend, love them with all we've got, and then say goodbye, at least for now.
That said, we know we'll go on talking about them, remembering each of them to one another as we go through our day-to-day. Mufidah, do you remember the time Indie came home with that Daniel Boone hat-like thing that stunk to high heaven? Remember how she proudly carried it straight into her bed in the living room, not understanding our own lack of enthusiasm? Sean, remember how Fudge used to snuggle under the covers with us, or how Tillie used to do that funny thing where she'd pull herself along the driveway, legs out behind her, lurching herself forward and barking in a state of glee and abandon?
And we'll smile, feel the tug at our hearts, that tinge of sadness that can't really be expressed, and go on.
Sean M. Madden is a writer, photographer and slow-traveling digital nomad. He's also Co-Founder & CEO of CreativeThunder.co, working with businesses and individuals, worldwide, to build tribes of loyal customers via strategic websites and visual storytelling. Interested? Click here.