Tuesday, 31 August 2010

7. Twins and a Glass Half Full

Just before the bank holiday, I went to a playgroup in my local park.

It was a warm day and The Tank and Magpie were in good if over-energetic form.  Phoebe was with me, my ad hoc extra pair of hands who I am soon to lose - at least in term-time - as she is going to university.  She appears to be something of a baby whisperer.  My girls, and the other babies she looks after (some twins, some singletons) all adore her.  She never panics, and always has fun in her voice.

There is an outside play area and an indoor pavillion (well, that sounds a bit posher than it is) with two exits, so two pairs of eyes are pretty useful for keeping tag on the girls, as there is an element of a Vaudeville farce involved (one toddler in one door and the other out the other).

Despite having Phoebe's company, I was in a low mood.  Earlier that morning I'd taken Klefti for a check-up at the vet's.  Apparently there was stalemate between the cancer and the steroids.  We popped him on the scales and he was still putting on weight (hurrah, so the fatty food was working), but the tumours had stopped shrinking (so boo! to the steroids).

I imagined that having children would put pet ownership into perspective (oh come on, it's only a dog), but not a bit of it.  I just can't visualise a life without Klefti (nicknames include Roons, a diminuitive of Klefterooney, from our Irish phase, later morphing into Wooney).  For those non-dog owners amongst you, dogs are given very silly nicknames.

In fact, dogs are like children.  If you don't have children, they are your children (look at any pet-owning gay couple for proof).  They certainly were ours until the girls took precedence.  But does having children make losing a dog any easier?  No, it doesn't.  In a way, Klefti was our firstborn, taken in as a stray pup and given a home that he was lucky to find.  Normally, poison is put down in Greek resorts at the end of the holiday season.  So Klefti has already had over eight times the life he would have had in Agios Iannis.  That helps to put things into perspective.  But not just that.

At the playgroup, it was now 'singing time' when toys are put away and a sense of order is restored. We all gathered in a group to sit on small child-friendly chairs.  The Tank got up on her chair backwards,  à la Christine Keeler.  Magpie tried to give a three year-old boy her dropped and half-eaten sandwich.  I noticed that the boy's mother was sitting with her younger son, who was older than my girls.  Or was he?  He was much taller, but had less hair and was uneasy on his feet.  There was something wrong with him.  I've no idea what.

I have a sick dog, but I have healthy children, children I never thought I'd have.  We almost always outlive our dogs, however long we have them.  But to have a damaged child who cannot be mended?  That takes a strength I hope I never need.

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