My online story titled The Three of Us now has nine chapters. I’ve received some lovely responses from readers and a variety of quarters, and it’s proving an interesting fiction project.
Thanks for reading Amy Kenyon! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
If you wish to catch up, its home site is here: The Three of Us.
The project has kept me off Substack for a bit, but I did manage (finally!) to write the essay on feminist engagements with fascism (history and current iterations). You can find that here: Feminism and Fascism.
While I take a few days to work on future chapters and think about other Substack ideas, here is a small glimpse of daily life with Gladys.
I have always done my thinking while out walking with a dear dog. Maisie, Agnes, and now Gladys.
Maisie and Agnes lived long lives. (See Postcards 8 and 9.) Gladys is now two. She is my first Spaniel. I had much to learn:
First, Gladys must discharge her youthful energy at frequent intervals. So, two lengthy or three shorter outings a day (plus play time in the garden) are the minimum she will agree to without complaint.
Second, at least one of these outings must give her a good run off the lead, preferably with other dogs, balls to catch in mid-air acrobatics, or failing those two elements, squirrels and birds to chase, never losing her optimism that one day she may catch up with one of them.
Third, lead walking. Gladys is fine in town settings or on very familiar footpaths. But the minute we head for the coastal path or the moor, her enthusiasm takes over and she pulls like billy-o.The point here is that my plans for long walks along the South Devon coastal path with Gladys have moved to the back burner. She’s so charged and vehement up there that I am likely to be dragged to Cornwall and back without stopping to eat or sleep. And she must be on the lead along most of the coastal path as Gladys is surely a dog who would throw herself off the nearest cliff in pursuit of a seagull. (The wonderful lifeboat people are regularly called out to rescue dogs that fall from the cliffs, many of them Spaniels, it has to be said, and some don't survive.) So, lead practice is a long game with Gladys.
Fourth, her shyness. Gladys has always been shy, often nervous in new situations or when an unfamiliar person wants to stroke her. She has an interesting, albeit confusing way to cope with this difficulty. For example, if we are walking along and a person approaches, she runs forward wagging her beautiful tail, emanating a slightly worried and confused friendliness. The person assumes Gladys is asking to be stroked, but as soon as s/he leans over to do so, Gladys shrinks and makes herself small, backs away, or rolls over into submissive mode. Some of the time, she recovers and finds her courage. But often, I can see that she is genuinely overwhelmed and uncomfortable. After helpful discussions with a lovely local dog trainer, I have learned to defend her right to shyness. I ask people to talk to me rather than shine a light on Gladys. This allows her to get used to the new person in her own way and time, typically sniffing the ground around their feet and managing to stay upright rather than on her back baring her vulnerable little tummy! She is, very gradually, becoming more confident, although sensitivity is part of who she is and I accept it.
I have been fond of citing Donna Haraway’s remark, “I have a dog. A dog has me.” (“Making Kin: An Interview with Donna Haraway” Los Angeles Review of Books [LARB] 2019). Gladys reminds me of its truth every day. We look to one another. She gently taps me with her paw and presses close to my side. I bury my face in her soft coat. We negotiate our needs and our hours together: my writing, her outings, my coffee cravings, her chase instincts, our practice walks on the coastal path (short in duration for now!), walks into town where there may be noise and people, and where Gladys needs me to attend to her fears from time to time. The trainer advised me to think of it as her bucket. When I see that her bucket is getting full, I seek a quiet spot for us to sit down while she settles her nerves.
Do our needs differ sometimes? Yes. Does this occasionally cause frustration to one or the other of us? Yes. But increasingly, our needs coincide. Our days are achieving a rhythm. I find time to read and write. She finds time to run around, sniff, chase, and play. Sometimes, I am the agitated one and she is the thinker. At sundown and into night, when we sit in the garden or she curls up on the sofa beside me, I know we have lived another day, shared, compromised, and stayed together. That’s love.
What a lovely description of your relationship. I can't wait to meet Gladys (I will be mindful of her shyness).
How beautiful Amy. She’s a lucky dog to have someone who works to understand her personality and needs. And because of that she flowers, becomes more than most dogs are allowed to be.