In the Clubhouse, I have often said that my dog, Sheba, has taught me more about language than anyone or anything else. This was not a lie. A gross exaggeration, perhaps, but not a lie.
In trying to communicate with her successfully, at least to the extent that she does not represent a danger to herself or others, I have been forced to look at how language and communication work from an entirely new perspective. And it has been fascinating.
I currently have the unenviable task of working my way through my mother’s possessions. Working out what I or my niece may want to keep, what my mother may need in the care home and what I can store here “just in case”. And the rest will be cleared by a charity. Possessions, some of which were cherished, some purely functional, some of which my mother and father were once proud of, many of which they simply “possessed”.
And I look around at my own house full of possessions. I grant, I am a hoarder. You never know when a six-inch piece of string and a rusty paperclip may come in useful. Probably many thousands of books that I will never read again. Vinyl albums I will never listen to again. Towels in every drawer in every bedroom…
And indeed the house I own. And the money in the bank that I call my own. And it all gives me grief. Where to put it? Where to keep it safe? Who will want it when I am gone?
Possessions and ownership. There is one thing in this house I can never own, and it gives me more joy than anything else. As I type, I hear her snoring gently on the landing, but always alert to scare the willies out of any potential intruder. But I can never “own” her in any meaningful sense. Sheba is not that kind of dog. None of them are really.
And yet I still talk of “my dog”. Or “my friends”.