The First of April Puppy Memories

I feel incredibly good. It’s spring, the grass is getting greener on all sides of the fence, the sky is clear, the sun is bright. Even if or when it rains, I’ll still feel good. Because that’s how it’s got to be.

A Russian friend of mine told a joke, which I find rather funny, albeit poignant:

Q: Excuse me, is God there?
A: No.
Q: When will He be?

When I say I’m not religious I mean that I don’t observe the rites, visit the church, etc. But we all need to believe in something. So, I’m believing in spring. This is my religion for now.

My boss has brought a puppy in the office today. It’s been several years since I’ve realised how important it is that you don’t forget about childhood. I’m thankful to each and everyone who make me remember about it, relive it, who let me revive it in one way or another.

Sixteen years ago in late November I was presented with a puppy. The puppy was a fruit of sudden passion between a Boxer and a Riesenschnautzer. This fruit was incredibly mischievous: when my mother and I entered the friend’s flat, my present was riding on the back of the friend’s Spaniel, clinging on to the Spaniel’s ear for dear life. The Spaniel was frantically shaking its head, but the present was adamant it didn’t fall off the Spaniel’s back.

Never before did I have either a dog or a cat, so the friend’s present was unexpected, to say the least. But it was good, nonetheless. At the time my Grandma was in hospital, and I was staying at home on my own. It was 1992, not the most secure or peaceful time even in Moscow, and although I didn’t suffer from depression I certainly felt incredibly lonely.

Well, acquiring the dog changed things dramatically. I had to look after it, to feed it, to play with it, to clean after it (yes, we’ve all been there), and to turn chaos into order after many of its escapades. I’m saying “it” because this is a convention. It was a she-dog, in fact. At first, we struggled for a name for her. On the way home from the friend’s my mother and I sat on the tube, the dog being the attraction for everyone around. The next day my mother went to work, and I went to school. At that precise moment we didn’t yet have locks in the rooms’ doors, so I just closed them and secured them with a rope. The dog was left to stay in the corridor. When I came home, she was nowhere to find. Then I heard gentle moaning from behind the door. Upon opening the door, I saw the view which I’ve since never forgotten. The room was a proper battleground: two armchairs were overturned, a tape recorder fell off the glass cabinet (I still wonder why the cabinet wasn’t destroyed), as did two plants. I was just learning to knit at the time, so all the balls of wool were laying randomly around the room. The room was ransacked, which, oddly, helped to find the name for the dog. We called her Ronia, after the protagonist of the book Ronia the Robber’s Daughter by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren.

Ronia became a friend, a family member, the kind of dog which you cannot imagine being substituted for another. She had this incredibly deep, wise look, and there was never any question as to her thinking abilities or abilities to communicate. Whenever there was an argument in the family, she’d always step in and barked, to silence us, to make us resolve the argument peacefully. She succumbed to cancer exactly in the Year of the Dog, in January 2006, and it was the first real loss I experienced in every sense of this word. I quite literally fell ill and took a sick leave at work. My mother and grandmother were inconsolable.

But I and the family and friends think about the dog as if she is. I somehow believe – did I say that we all need to believe in something? – that she is still there. It isn’t a naive hope; it’s a knowledge, as many of you may surely be able to agree.


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