NorthSouthEastWest: Expat Dispatches: It’s the middle of November so you know what that means: it’s time for our monthly virtual four-way blogfest!
- North: Linda in The Netherlands at Adventures in Expatland
- South: Russell in Australia at In Search of a Life Less Ordinary
- East: Erica in Japan at Expatria Baby
- West: Me in Canada here at I Was An Expat Wife.
This month’s theme? The one item each of us can’t imagine living expat life without.
So have a seat, get comfortable and come around the world with us as we explore four different items from four different perspectives:
At In Search of a Life Less Ordinary, I get a little verklempt about my love affair with my beautiful, magical passport.
At Adventures in Expat Land, Erica demonstrates why paper beats rock and scissors every time;
At Expatria Baby, Linda’s all for throwing off the bowlines;
And here at I Was an Expat Wife, Russell ponders that age-old question:
Is it wrong to be so attached to a dog?
I’ve been an expat since 2003.
That’s a lot of adventures, excitement and opportunities. It’s also included a fair share of homesickness, disappointment and sorrow. A rollercoaster of emotions. A train ride with many stops.
My wife has shared this expat journey with me and has been a constant source of strength and support by my side. My other constant has been my dog, Milo.
Milo came on this journey of ours when he was less than a year old. He was still a pup. He already lived in the shadow of his older brother, Murphy, who was my first dog and, as cliché as it sounds, my best friend. Milo was the ‘other’ dog, Murphy’s steadfast companion, and my wife’s birthday present. He was loved, but in a different way to Murphy. He wasn’t the number one dog, special as he was to us.
In 2007, Murphy was taken from us, suddenly and tragically, and just weeks after we’d married. We lost our boy and we grieved for months. Milo lost his buddy and his travelling partner in crime, but he couldn’t utter a word of regret or cry a single tear of despair. He was, after all, just a dog. So it was life as normal for Milo with the odd glance thrown at the empty dog bed in the hall. The difference being he was alone.
I realise now, looking back, how important Milo was to me in this period of my life. As I mourned for the loss of Murphy, Milo would sit loyally by my feet or lie at my side. I would stroke his smooth forehead and rub his soft round underbelly and listen to him purr like a cat. He was my constant companion.
Ironically, we came close to giving Milo up when we first bought him.
He was a gift for my wife and his arrival was bad timing. Our lives were busy enough yet I insisted on adding a mischievous, yappy, biting puppy to the mix. He was hard work in those early days. I left the house to go to work after a particularly bad night, fully expecting my wife to have taken him back to the kennel where he was born. I came home later that day and he greeted me at the front door, tail wagging furiously from side to side, and tongue lolling about in his head. She didn’t have the heart to give him up and neither did I. He was here to stay.
I’d wanted a large dog, a strong masculine Labrador retriever. Milo didn’t turn out that way. He is strong and he is most definitely a boy, but he is the dog that remained small in size and refused to grow bigger. He has a proud and cocksure walk even if he is only a foot and a half high. He has bright jet black eyes that can at once pull you into their depths. His face is pure Lab and his coat shiny and soft as silk. He is a dog of the finest breeding but one that can melt any normal person’s heart.
Milo loves a rub under his chin, on his neck, and all the way down to his chest. Fail to stroke him enough times and he’ll lift his head off the ground and give you ‘the stare’. In the early evening, he’ll trot off to the bedroom to curl up in his bed under the fairy lights where he’ll dream puppy dreams, twitching and jerking spasmodically through the night.
Milo is also very much a water baby.
He is a dog born to the wet stuff and swimming with him in the mild ocean lagoons is the highlight of my week. He’ll dive through the long, scraggly grass, sniffing out an old tennis ball and leaving his mark wherever he can. We’ll turn a corner on the narrow sandy trail and he’ll get a whiff of the ocean. Tail straight out behind, head down, body barrelling forwards, he becomes an unstoppable force of nature. I’ll catch up minutes later and he’s there at the water’s edge, head up, ears pricked and eyes alert, waiting for the throw of the ball. This is his domain.
The raised deck at the side of our house is his favourite hang-out. After a hard day’s work at the beach, he’ll climb up onto another of his beds, this one facing the street from the deck. The bed is raised up on four legs and the air circulates beneath his damp body. He’ll doze there in the shade of the cypress pines, sometimes turning his head to look through the trellis, alert to the sound of anyone approaching the house and always waiting there for our return.
I adore this little man, his personality, his charm. He is gentle, he rarely barks, he is a perfect gentleman around children. He is truly a great dog and a huge part of our lives.
Yet I feel a persistent sense of dread.
Milo is getting older and I’m terrified at the thought that one day he won’t be around. The white hairs on his chin have spread across his body, his joints are stiff after walks that seem shorter, and he no longer throws himself after his ball. His hips weaken and I carry him in and out of the car. He struggles to climb stairs or jump up on the bed and he sleeps so often. And, all the time, I find I’m watching him for further signs that the ageing process is quickening.
It’s stupid, I know. He’s just a dog, people will say. But I can’t contemplate life without him. Without his presence beside me, it will be too quiet in the house. No-one standing right behind me at the front door. No head peering into the kitchen waiting expectantly as I cook. No doggy dreams and sudden howls to wake me in the middle of the night. No tiny groans or grunts as he’s rubbed down. No bright eyes peering out at me from the deck in the dark.
The thought of no Milo in my future is more than I can bear. He is my last tie to England, the link I’ve brought with me to this new home. He’s been a part of our journey for so long and he’s a huge reason this adventure has been such fun. I need him to meet the children I don’t yet have and I want him to go on being the loveliest family dog he has always been… because he’s my friend, he’s my mate, he’s my Milo.