D’fer Dog
April 2020
written for The Arrowhead Expanding Outwards, Sawtooth ARI

Last week I met my friend at the park, where I took our new puppy, Alan, to meet her dogs Daisy and Ringo. Exercise, for dogs and people, is one of only a few still sanctioned reasons to leave the house. Unsure if Alan will make it all the way there on his feet (paws), I wrap him up in a gingham blanket and settle him in the basket of my bicycle, which I push alongside as I walk.

This is astonishingly cute.

People cross the street to avoid us.

Because of the time he is growing up in, Alan may mistakenly learn that the world is empty and quiet, and that people are cautious and distant. However, it’s also possible that he isn’t mistaken. That he has a better head start learning of the way the world might now be, before he ever learned of what it was.

As we make our way down the street, everything is muted as though through a fog.

At the park, my friend with her dogs and Alan and I walk towards each other and stop approximately 1.5 meters away. Although I am not usually liberal with physical affection, I feel restraint vibrating throughout my body. Arms denied the shape of a hug hanging self-consciously by my side.

The dogs strain to reach one another across the void between us.

Alan was also the name of my grandfather. He died a few months ago. Before the virus shifted the world in this way. Drawing a veil between people and places and plans.

I met my friend at the park last week, or it might have been last month.

Without the weekly markers of work, appointments, meetings and events, time itself means less at the moment. My days have instead been measured by growth.

The growth of a puppy.

The thirst of a plant.

Alan has doubled in size since we took him to the park to meet Daisy and Ringo yesterday or last week.

(Tomorrow we walked together down the street and people smiled at us).

Alan (the man) traded in small, story-filled objects. After I moved away from home he would regularly send me photographs in the post. More specifically, he would take photographs of photographs in photo albums and send those to me. Sometimes irregularly cropped or difficult to interpret because the flash from his camera was reflecting off the protective plastic film that lay over the photograph he was trying to capture.

He would get these photographs of photographs printed and write on the back detailing when they were from and who was in them, sometimes drawing complicated diagrams of connections between people if there was a particularly good story attached. Once he wrote on the back of a series of photographs using all four colours of a bic four-coloured pen and sent them to me as a package along with the pen.

It always made me picture him sitting at a table somewhere with albums full of years worth of stories, and picking moments to share with me. When we were both in the same house we would sit together at the kitchen table with a cup of tea in two particular teacups. He would flick through the albums and tell me the stories behind each photograph.

I only realised while I was writing this that he had kept that small tradition going, unbroken, no matter where I was in the world for as long as we knew each other, even when I wasn’t there.

Ours was one relationship it might have been easy to maintain; neither affected by time nor by distance.

A friend told me recently that she felt elderly people were particularly visible at this moment in time. As the most vulnerable members of our community in the midst of a community spread virus, they are told to stay home, and we are told to keep away from our grandparents and elders.

My grandfather Alan named his own dog D’fer. As in D fer Dog.