Musings on having children and dogs
KATE GRIGG/SPECIAL TO THE PACKET & TIMES The author’s husband is shown with Jasper, a dog that is never boring.
Someone said to me recently, blue-eyed baby in her arms, that she'd always wanted to know what it was like to be pregnant and have a child.
Something I have never wondered.
Not because I suffer some kind of Mary Shelley anxiety about what I would give birth to, or fear the process of pregnancy, or doubt my abilities as a mother.
It's stronger than that. An instinctive rebellion against being overtaken, overruled, invaded, altered. Made helpless as any other creature nature demands reproduce. No better than an animal, an insect, or a bird, filling the world with more of its kind before it's gone.
I, a thing to be used. I who belong to a paintbrush or pen, to long walks and falling snow. The deep hidden core of me, the part that wants to be free, that bucks and rears at being confined, my individual unknowable self sacrificed so another person can exist and, like me, wonder what it's all about.
I can imagine pregnancy: the swollen belly, the stirring of life, the contentment, the discomfort. I can imagine the ordeal of giving birth. What I can't imagine is creating another person, the audacious production of a complicated human being.
If they didn't come as babies, would anyone? Would anyone go into a lab and create a full-grown human, provide it with a language and a moral compass, a reason for existing, and send it into the world?
I can never look at a baby and see a mere baby, a warm little scrap of life. I see the person they will become, what time will do to them, the unhappiness I can't spare them, the moment when they realize they too must die.
The more beautiful they are, the rosier the cheek, the brighter the eye, the deeper my sadness.
Better to let others get on with it and content myself with little dogs, immune to my melancholy. Themselves despite the mad world around them, unconcerned with past or future, fears and upsets easily remedied, possessing needs it is possible to meet. Knowing how to be. Requiring no rhyme or reason, living without the shadow of their own end. A creature I can keep happy and whose happiness makes me happy in return.
Hogarth for 15 years, and now Jasper -- a rascal, a difficult, fascinating seven-month-old Brussels Griffon. Part wild hooligan and part babe in arms. Front legs like a Steiff teddy bear's, back legs like a jackrabbit's, face like a monkey, styled like a Dr. Seuss character, willful, demanding, charming, engaging. A dog of intelligence and various moods, full of flat-out joy and nimbleness and zip. Known to walk full-tilt for a mile, perch on a shoulder like a parakeet, drape around a neck like a fur collar. Able to lie in my arms with complete abandon, limp as a rag doll, seemingly unconscious. Entrusting himself and at the same time true to his nature, immune to compromise. As close as the air I breathe and yet something almost eerie in his eyes, an unknowable otherness, a wildness, the glint, perhaps, of freedom.
Free in every muscle and fibre and hair of his little being. A force in his 12-pound frame greater than that many people possess. A force they had as infants but have long since lost: squalling at the top of their lungs, gurgling, pumping their arms and legs, and with every breath being absolutely nothing but themselves.
Kate Grigg is an artist and writer who grew up in Orillia and tells stories of local people in her weekly column. If you have a story you think she might be interested in, email firstname.lastname@example.org.