Lost in Childhood continues with a moving post by Jane Clarke. Get the tissues ready boys and girls, you will need them!
My Dog brother
I was an only child, but I wasn’t a lonely only child, because I had a dog. Tinker wasn’t much to look at – a mid sized mongrel with pointy ears, a teapot tail and a high pitched yap – but that didn’t matter. To me, he was my brother and we loved each other unconditionally. When I was a baby, Dad had found him wandering along a busy road, and rescued him from becoming puppy pancake. In my earliest childhood memories, Tinker is always there.
He was guest of honour at every teddy bear picnic even if he did eat all the cake. He was there with a sympathetic lick when I got into trouble for dressing up in Mum’s clothes and makeup and getting lipstick all over her new long dress. He was there, wagging his tail in sympathy when I fell out with my best friend, and jumping for joy when we made up. He didn’t much like being made to wear clothes, but that’s brothers for you.
In winter, our meeting place was the broom cupboard where we would huddle together beneath the hanging coats and I would whisper in his furry ear and tell him my plans for the future. And Tinker understood when I told him I wanted to join the circus and be an acrobat, even if Mum and Dad seemed less keen. Tinker was planning to go with me, of course. We did everything together – watched TV together, and read together – well, I’d read out loud and he’d look alert. Our favourite was The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graeme.
Summertime, the garden was our territory, and I’d stake out obstacle courses so Tinker could practice for the circus by scrambling along planks, jumping over bamboo high jumps and darting through my hula-hoop – all the while barking gleefully. My dog brother taught me to take joy in ordinary things – every walk through the streets from our house was a lamp post-sniffing, tail wagging adventure. Tinker’s idea of ecstasy was going in the car for the Sunday walk through the fields. He would yap all the way until the turn off for his favourite walk – through a cow pasture with a small stream churned into mud where the cows crossed. He’d race for the stream and splash about until he looked as if he was wearing chocolate socks. Then Tinker would head for the nearest cow pat – and roll and roll and roll in it. I giggled as I gagged and saw things from a different perspective. Eau de manure was Tinker’s perfume of choice.
And what else did my dog brother teach me? He taught me patience as he slowed down, grey-muzzled, until walks were reduced to a shuffle and still-enthusiastic sniff. Compassion as he spent more and more time curled up asleep in his basket… until the morning he did not wake. Then, for the first time, I learned the agony of loss. And as my 12 year old self gradually processed that loss, I experienced the truth of clichés – time heals, pain fades. The legacy of my dog brother is a store of happy childhood memories that will stay with me forever and are a treasure trove for my writing.
I’m sure Tinker would have liked my stories, too…
Jane Clarke April 2012
To know more about Jane and her books, please visit: http://www.jane-clarke.co.uk/