I can write about the Big Black Dog—or also known as depression—following me around. I have many stories to share about mental health and I will do so in due course. However, in a bid to be a more positive read, I’ll write a blog about my actual black dog, Charlie.
Now this might sound a bit funny, but I am not a dog person nor a cat lover; I actually don’t like any kind of animal. I don’t like fur, I don’t like feathers, I don’t like barking, and I don’t like purring. Animals make my skin feel funny. I am not an animal abuser, nor do I go out of my way to hate on animals, but my chosen charity has nothing to do with these creatures.
It’s weird as my mother is animals’ best friend. I grew up surrounded by many animals; I remember my mother having geese, chickens, and of course, many dogs. I don’t know if the younger me befriended animals, but I certainly did not grow up loving them as hard as my mother has.
But then I became a mother myself, and of course, my child turned out to be a huge animal friend. Maybe this love just skips a generation in our family, just like our green thumb. I was actually great at avoiding getting her pet for five years; although we had some fish for a week, that did not turn out very good. They died, hence the week.
But then, my daughter turned five and I saw her with my mother’s dogs and knew that I was depriving her of a huge childhood joy. We were living in China at the time and adopting a dog just seemed like the right thing to do. Into our family came Charlie two years ago, a small puppy found behind the trash on a Chinese compound by another expat family.
We took Charlie home and I had a deep conversation with him when my daughter was in school. I told him, “You are here for my child, I will take care of you and train you and make sure you are a happy dog, but I won’t love you Charlie.” I made a business agreement with a puppy dog. I got him for my child, though I wanted to have nothing to do with him.
But this agreement did not last long; Charlie followed me everywhere: in the toilet, the kitchen, on the bed, he was there. And while I was slowly consumed by the Big Black Dog (depression), my black dog stayed by my side. I spent days in bed and Charlie would be there. I took him all over Beijing in my purse when he was a puppy. He came with me to the office, the hairdresser, and many photoshoots.
And then he came with us to England, by a dramatic detour through Holland. Taking a dog from China to anywhere in the world is a tricky undertaking. You need proper documents and special tests, many stamps, and loads of money. By then, Charlie had accompanied me in many fights with many Black Dogs and there was no way we would leave him behind.
As I am writing this, he sits beside me and he is the only black dog I have welcomed in my life. I welcomed Charlie into my heart with so much joy. He is the black dog that fights with me, tearing down the other black dogs one day at a time, one bark at a time.