It is said that one of the reasons that a person enjoys a canine companion is the aspect of unconditional love. A dog’s nature seems to be one that throws all cares away and just drills down to excitement, contentment and sheer joy at the human’s return after having been abandoned for most of the day. There is no grudge. Rather, there is a body swaying back and forth with such vigor and a tail that spins around with sheer abandon. For the human, any stress or tension that may have existed on the commute home melts away at the greeting and display of such pure affection.
Why can’t humans behave this way with one another? Why does our experience with romantic partnerships as well as relationships in general not include such joy in greeting one another at the end of an extended absence? Of course our response is likely that we are more complex beings. But is that true? And if it is, is this a benefit?
Certainly, we humans have a basic need for community in some fashion. Being completely isolated and having merely a dog for companionship might not satisfy nor be prudent over the long term. However, even now after all these years, I find myself yearning for a place of solitude. Once there, I am not sure that I will be truly content. There are no guarantees. But as I reflect on my youth and position memories next to more recent feelings, I realize that my longing for a solitary place of my own has been at the forefront for most of my life. I understand the draw to the hermitage.
There are memories of a time when the movie Jeremiah Johnson was at the top of my list of favorites, along with Harold and Maude. I watched those movies alone – over and over again. The appeal of the first one was living away from demands of society- living alone, and fending for myself. Being in nature, limited expectations from others. For a high school graduation present, my parents took me to a summer resort on a lake in Wisconsin. I recall taking a row boat out on the lake with them and we coasted and rowed around the lake. Mom was entranced by the majestic homes that dotted the shoreline. I remember sitting in that row boat dreaming of living in one of the tiny boat houses, small quarters that would offer just enough room for a bed, maybe a table and a view. And in those visions, I imagined myself living there with my dog. My vision did not include sharing the space with another human.
Much later in life, I recall describing Iceland to an interested party. The rugged landscape for some is considered the Wild West. For me, it is a terrain filled with raw resources and potential for hours of reflection. I imagine myself living in a small cottage on the cliffs, a tiny garden and a dog. Recently, watching a show on Netflix which hails from Wales called Hinterland- the lead detective’s mobile home accommodation on the coast, isolated from the masses with the wind whipping through and the waves crashing below, seems the perfect setting for writing, hiking and having a cup of tea. And of course, a loyal canine nearby.
Throughout my life, I have had canine love and it has never disappointed. Fairly regularly, I receive advice from well meaning people that I will find someone special. A gentle soul that will provide a safe and enjoyable life in partnership. Mom hopes that he can play the guitar so that I can sing and enjoy beautiful moments of music with my true love. A teddy bear she says, someone warm and huggable.
Until then, I have accepted and become satisfied with the life of solitude that is paired with the unconditional love I receive from my canine friend, and for now, that time is with Sofie. Maybe when I am old and grey, it will be in a cottage by the sea with my faithful friend nearby. I imagine this space with books, tea, a writing desk, a window looking out at nature, a warm bed, a small village not too far away for basic provisions. This for me would be my ideal final chapter.