Dog Mom by Surprise

Barbara Bierach, 58, has never considered herself a “dog person”. But life is what happens while you make other plans…
That’s how the German writer (and her beloved cat) found her peace within a real dog pack on the West Coast of Ireland (Sligo) – and would never wanna change anything about it ever again.
We’ve known each other a long time, both journalists, both writers, both travellers from the heart. Even met on the other side of the world once: “I’m in Sydney, you’re in Melbourne, wanna come?” Barbara came on the next flight and we had a great time. Now, funny enough, we’re both dog moms, even though from slightly different perspectives and in different corners of the earth. I’m happy and proud to feature her story on Amazingdogstales (and I can’t wait to meet her furry family!). So why don’t you just grab a cup of tea and enjoy?

I’m not really a dog person, 
nope, I am actually a cat person. Always have been. Dogs I consider a rather uncouth and filthy lot. They greet one another by sniffing each others bottoms. Which other species does that? Yuck! Certainly not cats, they greet each other and their human by presenting their faces, like any other civilised species. Oh, and have you ever seen a cat peel a dead frog from the tarmac to eat it? I haven’t, but I have seen lots of dogs eat all kinds of shit. Again: Yuck!

So, here I was with my cat Gigi and my opinions about canines and then my husband succumbed to a heart attack at age 54. Following that, Gigi’s was the only other heart beat in the house and we grew even closer, if that’s possible. Then I met Anna Marie, a painter, a poet, a gardener, a retired galley owner and curator. We became close friends and a few years down the road we decided to move in and grow old together.

Only problem: This fabulous person came in a package with two dogs, Sally the spaniel and Arthur the schnauzer. I call them “the stinkers”, and hence one condition of moving in was that the pooches have to go to the groomers every 6 weeks to have a bath and a haircut. 

And then the magic began. Those two dogs embraced me with their overwhelming love, no questions asked. To this day, they follow me wherever I go, they lie on the carpet behind me in my office when I work, they support me when I am down and they celebrate life with me when I am happy. They don’t have a mean streak in their hairy bodies, but if someone ever had the foolish idea to try and harm me when they are around, they would rip the attacker into little ribbons. They would.

But the best thing is: They are fabulous teachers. They show me every day how to be in the moment, how to be present, how to enjoy life. They don’t contemplate the past, nor do they worry about the future, they are always in the present, in the NOW. Their ability to be happy is endless and graciously they take me with them on this path to joy.

They still go to the groomers every six weeks, though, and they still stink. Partly, that has to do with our lifestyle. We live on the West Coast of Ireland in County Sligo and our walks take us not only to the beaches, but also through woods and bogland. Sally is now 15 and getting deaf, but out there in the countryside, she is still a pup, snuffling her way through the reeds, the grass and yes, the puddles and bog. When we come back home, the white in her fur is often almost invisible under the mud. Arthur, at age 7, is at the top of his physical powers and runs through the fields and forests like a demon on steroids. Same result: He gets filthy.

Mostly, we do not use leads. Anna Marie grew up in a rather grandiose setting with a family that had their own hunt and hence plenty of dogs in a kennel. She has known dogs since she could walk or talk and understands them instinctively. She has trained our stinkers to obey her commands so reliably that we can let them run free on the beaches and country lanes. Arthur occasionally challenges her status as the Alpha in our pack, but Anna sorts him out pretty quickly. And at the end of the day dogs are happiest, when the rules are clear and followed and everybody in the pack has their role and their status. 

I still love cats and I never allow a dog to lick my face, knowing where they have been with that tongue and what they have eaten. But now I am part of a dog pack, too, and am incredibly grateful for it.

Curious to read more of Barbara Bierach?


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