The return of joy

Autumn leaves on the ground taken from above. A dog on a load and a pair of Ugg Boots are also visible in the shot.

Yesterday marked six weeks since DorkyDog’s surgery. I’m writing this blog post on my phone, sitting beside her out on our front porch and enjoying the sunshine – although this is the first official week of Tassie winter and it’s only 6 degrees. I’m actually sitting down on the ground, sharing DorkyDog’s mattress and blankets, because it’s warmer down here than it is perched on the wooden bench above. 

The last week has felt like a turning point in her post-surgery recovery – and by association it has felt like a turning point for everything else too.

I can’t pinpoint an exact moment or one particular reason for the change – it has been a gradual improvement – but so much of the tension has eased. The routine is more settled. Everyone is happier. The atmosphere is calm. 

Perhaps it’s because we have been able to drop the support sling, so she has more freedom to move around and we are not bent over all the time, hobbling after her. Perhaps it’s because we can now go for short walks outside the garden – just ten minutes, two or three times a day, but those little changes of scenery are making a big difference to her mood and ours. Perhaps it’s because we finally seem to have a reasonable balance with her medication, where she is (mostly) relaxed and still throughout the day but also awake enough to feel like herself again. 

Or perhaps it’s just that time has worked its magic – as it always seems to. We still have two weeks until x-rays but we are less on edge, less afraid that she is going to do something terrible and damaging and painful that renders the whole thing undone. 

Doggo life is not yet completely normal. She still spends the vast majority of her day in the crate. She cannot run upstairs to DorkyDad first in the morning, or hop on the couch for a cuddle. There is no jumping or bouncing or chasing balls. But we have found ways to make things as close to normal as they can be. Slow, short walks with lots and lots of sniffing. A supervised hour lying in the garden, or stretched out on the sunniest spot on the carpet. A lick of yoghurt off DorkySon’s spoon each evening (except for once, when he forgot, and she refused to look at him for the rest of the night, turning her fluffy little face away in disgust when he tried to make peace). 

And all that nearly normality, the melting away of stress and tiredness, has created space for other things. Good things. The return of joy. 

This week, we have been enjoying the last of the autumn colours, the soft sunrises, the snow on the mountain. (Only from afar.) We met up with friends for dinner. Listened to DorkySon practising his clarinet. Sought advice on the best sake to accompany the fresh tuna from Mures that is SO GOOD RIGHT NOW.

We have set out on a mission to find Hobart’s best lunchtime dumplings. Dug out the winter clothes – the woollen socks and long sleeve thermals that get us through June to August. We have played board games. Filled hot water bottles. Played ukulele. Written for pleasure as well as for work. Stacked firewood. Read good books. Posted letters. Bought new pyjamas. Resumed at-home yoga. We have even started thinking a little more about our trip to New Zealand in October. 

(I don’t know what exciting sights we’re going to see in Wellington, but I do know what’s on the room service menu…)

It has been so lovely – so fulfilling and restorative and fun – to make space for a bit of joy, again. 

We have always seen ourselves as a tight knit family. It is an excellent thing, and a tricky one too. There is a precarious and easily-affected balance. Whenever any one of us is off our game, it affects us all. 

I guess I hadn’t realised that would extend so quickly to include the dog. But in retrospect, of course it did. 

It will be one year next week since she arrived. Luna dog. Our dog. DorkyDog. 

The blackbirds are having a grand old time in the garden right now, getting oh-so-cocky because she’s always on a lead and can’t chase them. They come and land just inches away while she’s looking for the perfect wee spot. Tilting their heads to one side, dropping bits of apple that they’ve pinched off the tree. Such teasing. 

Just you wait, blackbirds. She won’t forget.

Not long now, not long at all. 

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