Nothing is Free

By | 2010-01-28

It’s not really on-topic for this blog, but you’ll forgive me I’m sure. I wrote this a few months ago, but didn’t really want to broadcast to the world that we were sad. Time and sadness pass of course, and we have a new puppy arriving soon, so I thought it was an appropriate time. If nothing else, I hope it shows you that I care about more than just computers.. — Andy, 2010–01–28

Nothing is free.

Of course I’m not talking just about money and property; every aspect of life is an exchange. Most importantly, for most exchanges we choose whether we make them or not.

Everybody has their own little joys. Many of them are easily quantified — if you like doughnuts, and you know the price of doughnuts then thus you know the price of that joy. Even if we consider that the price is more than mere money — a doughnut makes you fat too, and either the time in the gym or the extra inches on your waistline are part of the price that you pay. No problem. The exchange is available and you make your choice.

There are hidden exchanges too; those that we make without realising we’ve done so, and some of those exchanges are made with the bill outstanding. They’re the ones that involve no money, no property and no scale by which to measure them. They’re there though — an exchange, one thing for another.

Owning a dog (or, I suppose, any other pet if that’s your bag, baby) makes you happy. I had never liked animals as a child, or rather I was disinterested in them as opposed to uninterested. I just didn’t see the point. I was eventually persuaded around to the idea of having a dog, although I don’t think I thought it would change my opinion, ownership would simply be a chore to be undertaken. I was wrong. The dog that we got makes me happy, he is my friend. He is my friend every day, and the simple pleasures that he takes in life (a walk, a sleep, his family) are a reminder that being happy is a state of mind not a state of being. We got another dog soon after, and obtained a time-share on another.

Sadly, time-share dog died recently. She was ill, and was only going to get worse, so we did for her what all people who love their pets do when the time came. I have no regrets about that, and wish that the same dignity were so easily available to humans. It was (and is) extraordinarily sad though; you become used to that part of your world that is taken up by a dog. The hole they leave when they’re gone is palpable. I would guess that it is familiarity that is to blame, humans are creatures of habit, when our world changes unexpectedly there is a dissonance between what our brain tells us should be happening and what actually is happening. I can see why there are those who believe in ghosts — I don’t of course, but that expectation of presence is so strong that you could trick yourself into seeing that which is not there. I’m using many words when a few would suffice. In short, I miss time-share dog.

We were once on holiday and went for a walk, there was a pond on that route of that walk. It was a very still day, and the pond was completely covered with small leaves. It obviously looked like a solid surface, because time-share dog stepped onto it as if it were. Splash.

When she was very young she chewed the legs of a kitchen chair. The chair was still standing at the end, but with in an inconveniently weakened state. No one had noticed this of course. Halfway through a meal, the occupant of the chair ended up on the floor. I imagine time-share dog looking on in absolute innocence of what she had done.

These stories aren’t really the point; in fact they miss the point. I tell them only to give you a glimpse at the connection between us and our lost dog. These stories are specifics, and the more important point is the generality. Dogs only make you happy when they are happy, dogs are easy to make happy, therefore looking after a dog makes you happy every day. Every day.

Nothing comes free. Everything is an exchange. The price: sadness when they are gone. The purchase: a friend, a companion, a source of glee, unremitting happiness on a daily basis. For years. Years.


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