The stars have always acted as a sort of guidance to humans. They are the roadmap for a captain at sea, a metaphor for reliability, dots of creative symbolism for gods and myths. To me they were an anchor throughout every challenge and a silver lining in all the times of deep despair. I always felt very connected to them, in some circumstances I longed to go back there where I felt I truly belonged.
Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky and part of the constellation Canis Major. Because of his prominence in this constellation he is often referred to as the ‘dog star’. Like this very star, my dog, Marjorie, is the light of my life. She came, she saw, she conquered my heart, soul and essence. I need to write down our story, I do not want to forget one little bit of it. And I want to share with the world how she transformed my life and made me a better person. With all my devotion to my beloved Marjorita-Pepita-Carino-Principessa. Thank you for your light in the darkness, your guidance, your kindness, your trust.
My life was complete, seemingly perfect. For the first time in as long as I can remember I literally had no financial issues, no problems, no restrictions to my freedom and purpose within my job and volunteer work.
I am not a person who is able to flow within bliss for long. Soon comfort turns into restlessness. Restlessness into senselessness. There is no more flowing of energy, it gets stuck and with that I feel stuck as well. Oftentimes I might wish for more contentment in what is. Then again, that is not me at all. I need to move, I need to grow, I need to flow on.
With all of the main aspects of my life settled, I knew it finally was the right time to take on more responsibility.
For a living being.
Not just any dog.
A stray dog.
Opening my heart and home to a soul that was willing to em-bark (pun intended) on this journey together.
The summer of 2018 was glorious and I had just returned from a three week summer car-camping vacation through Sweden and Norway with my then boyfriend. I had been talking about expanding the family for a while and was ready to take action straight after returning home.
Through a friend of mine that volunteers for the organisation ‘Ein Herz fuer Streuner’ (translates to ‘A Heart for Strays’) I found myself on their website. At first reluctance kicked in. It seemed to be horrific browsing through an endless amount of pages, with pictures and short descriptions of personalities to at least 20 stray dogs per page. Like online shopping, which one do I fancy, which one looks a certain way or has the eyes or whatever.
I braced my heart though for I knew, I could offer my heart and soul to one of them, and one of them will be my partner in crime for the remaining years of its life. And I admit to having a preference for the colour black. That was all.
After a few hours of browsing I had copied the links to the dogs that I felt drawn towards. I showed all of them to my then partner, for he had to have a say in it too. It would change both our lives in the end, although we lived spiritedly and it was clear that it would be my sole responsibility. We eliminated most of the almost 30 of my list. I could not wait any longer and decided to send an email out for the first two that were remaining, both of them still in the Baia Mare rescue shelter, Romania.
One was called ‘Marge’.
Within an hour I had an answer, which was very surprising to me since it was almost midnight. It read that they were delighted to hear from me, especially since Marge only recently had her vaccinations and medical inspections done, her passport was ready and she could be at the Austrian - Swiss border within three weeks. It also stated that they would love to have a personal get together and visit me, to see if Marge indeed was the right fit for my household and that her needs could be met through my lifestyle.
A few days later a middle-aged lady came by for tea and we talked about an hour. I told her how I was able to take Marge with me to the office, that she would have morning and afternoon walks by the river or in the forests of the surrounding area and that there were a lot of other dogs for socialising. She told me about the responsibilities, the possible hardships I might encounter if hidden trauma erupts and how trust is build over months, in some cases several years even. By the end of the meeting my mind was still set on Marge and the nice volunteer lady agreed that we would make a good match. She gave me her telephone number to stay in touch and for anything I might need or want to ask her and said I can prepare for Marge’s arrival on the 19th of October 2018.
And I did.
From that day forward, each night before my meditation practice, I would picture Marge in her shelter, send her my love and devotion and images of our one room apartment, our walking routes along the river and all of the friends she would be meeting soon, human and four-legged, furry ones.
During this time of preparation I was sent a video showing Marge in her shelter with other dogs, being all excited when it was time for food or interaction with a human. My very first motion picture of the future love of my life.
And then the day was here. My then boyfriend and I made our way over the border to Austria and waited with others at the appointed place for a red van, carrying around 12 or 13 other dogs. Not all of them were adopted that day, some would be given to volunteer foster homes and be placed later. The excitement boiled up and I was running back and forth between our car and the street, talking to others and running there and back again. I think even my voice was squeaky and I was not really able to articulate my feelings into a single full sentence.
When they handed me her lead, she instantly lay down and rolled on her back. With all the barking and weeping and excitement around her, after nine hours in a van, I think she was absolutely overwhelmed. We brought her over the border, legally through customs office, and then she and I were alone for the first time. I had taken time off work to give her space for acclimatisation.
We went out four to five times a day for not more than an hour. I learned very quickly that she appreciates being inside whenever it is dark, so we would only visit the park around the corner then. The first encounters of both humans and other dogs were practically the same. She would lie down, roll to the side or back and had a submissive demeanour. Only fast gestures that involved throwing balls and sticks, or sudden changes in voice or posture would frighten her. Loud noises and bangs, even the slamming of car doors, would put her into a shock as well. She spend her first weeks at work curled up on a chair by the side of my desk, not moving one inch and only drinking water when I would offer it to her. Open spaces and sitting outside stressed her as she constantly was looking for a sheltered spot to hide out.
Looking back now, I might have exposed her to too much, too early. I was ignorant and she obliging. Only now I realise that she and I were both overwhelmed. Me because I wanted to deliver the perfect care and home and heart and love. She because of everything. Gradually though she opened up to my co-workers, who all lovingly welcomed her to the office, giving her cuddles every time they passed by. She liked my then partner right away, who would not, he is indeed an adorable person. Within the first month it seemed that she adapted to our daily routines and started to enjoy longer walks.
Within the first three months she ran away three times whenever her instincts kicked in because of a scent. Only the first time did I make the mistake of not remaining where she last saw me, the other two times I stood firmly, awaiting her return. I learned that even though her instincts might tell her to chase after something and disappear, she always returns to where she last saw me. Since then, even if she disappeared or got off track following a scent, she always returned to me (or in the case of Scottish weather conditions like extreme winds and rains and storms when my scent was undetectable or blown away, to our host’s house).
It is the end of 2021. In exactly two days, on Tuesday, Marjorie has been with me three years.
A lot has happened. Too much to get into detail. The milestones of our shared life include the break up with the man I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with, the departure from Switzerland and everything as well as everyone we knew, and the adventures of nearly a year of travelling.
All three have made our bond stronger, our communication clearer and enabled us to develop our personal growth.
When Marjorie came to live with me I was not aware that I was not aware.
This sounds crazy but it accurately describes my state of being. I was all over the place, not mindful, not self aware. Although I thought I had matured and handled my temper and emotions, cravings and restlessness in a healthy way, she taught me that I was far off track with all of it. Her gentleness enabled me to see and feel whenever I was out of tune. Screaming during an argument with my then boyfriend, she would dug her head and tail in, trying to hide underneath something, anything really, to get away from the raised voices and violent energy.
So, I stopped screaming.
Getting lost in the depth of despairing, unkind or negative thoughts of my mind while we were having a walk, she’d force me to come out of it by not listening to me, being in her present moment and doing her own thing.
So, I started to observe my thoughts rather than just have them thought, and stopped thinking of negatives by transforming them into positives.
Stressing about how to handle and control her movements in order to resemble someone in control, present a picture to the outside that was not coherent with my inner world, she would do the total opposite of what I wanted her to do.
So, I relaxed and acknowledged her as a living being with her own personality, good days and bad days, realising that, like life, I am not able to control her anyway.
With every one of our walks I learned something about her, about myself or about nature. My commitment to her needs and her mirroring of my behaviour, emotions and actions, put into motion an avalanche of self discovery, self reflection and self growth.
The more I was in alignment with myself, the better our team worked.
I stopped obsessing with the want to teach her something, instead joined into the pleasures of learning from her. Where was the need in telling her what to do anyway, she had been out in the streets and by herself for the majority of her life, she knows herself, what she wants, what and when she needs it, having been able to rely solely on herself. She listens to me and trusts me enough to let me take charge in cities and in the handling of special situations, what to do when there is a dog on a lead that is not allowed to greet her or how to cross a street, for example. Apart from that, she can take charge and make decisions about where she wants to walk and how long she wants to sniff at a certain spot. There is agreement between us, and we found it because we were both willing to accept each other and trust each other. No dog school involved, just a lot of YouTube videos of Maja Nowak and her approach to what she calls ‘human training rather than dog training’.
We found ourselves in a partnership.
I find myself in love.
There is no way I could picture my life without her, although sometimes I think about it just to remind myself that every moment with her is precious and there will be an end, whenever it is to be.
My gratitude goes out to her for everything she has taught me.
There was a lot to teach my human.
She had to learn to not stress so much about plans. You see, she always had this thing where she thought up a specific route and attached a time to it and expected everything to work out in favour of this arrangement. But control is an illusion. Sniffing longer here, disappearing to there, that is how you teach your two-legged friend to stay in the present and smell the gorgeous flowers around them, while waiting for me.
After all it does not matter where we are going as long as we can find shelter somewhere at some point and be together in the glory of nature, right?!
Home is nice too.
There are days where I do not want to explore so much. On those particular days I aim to teach her that it is alright to relax as well. No need to be out and about several hours every single day. You have a nice crib, then stay inside, cuddle up, be content.
And when you are outside again, stop and have a break.
Otherwise you might miss an intriguing bird song, an inspiring cloud formation, a refreshing new side track hidden behind a bush or an invigorating cool down by the river. No need to rush just to complete a loop in a set frame of time.
I think I did a pretty good job on educating my human.
She still is rushed sometimes.
She still cannot remain long at one place and packs up that gruesome, huge, grey monster Uwe (she calls it a ‘backpack’) to move us to yet another new location. But all in all, she seems happier, she does not scream or yell anymore (apart from when I am far way hunting rabbits), and we are able to share a mutual understanding of how much exercise and revitalisation is appropriate.
I know she cares for me, provides me with the essentials of food and shelter and love, I know I can trust her. I like to have my freedom but it is delightful to rely on her too.