Dawn was beautiful this morning. I saw its opalescence light the window and heard the first blackbird sing its welcome. We were out before the sun rose, the small dog and I, with Ani lolloping through the fields and undergrowth, grinning at the morning.
It is very odd to consider how many people worldwide now know and care about the small dog, yet in fact, no one truly knows her except me. I see a side of her that her visitors… and she is convinced they are her visitors… do not see. She will be having a visitor this weekend… though she won’t see much of him as we are off on our travels while Ani goes to play with her friends. She reminds me always of those words of Browning,
“God be thanked, the meanest of his creatures
Boasts two soul-sides,—one to face the world with,
One to show a woman when he loves her!”
Ani epitomises those lines, though neither a man nor a ‘mean’ creature. Visitors see only the beautiful, ball-obsessed, excited mad-dog. They may see her intellect, cannot ignore the grinning charm or the Disney cartoon face and few fail to feel the loving laughter she exudes or see the comical side of her. But only those who stay a good while get a glimpse of the other face… the quiet creature who does, occasionally, curl up and sleep.
You would need to stay long enough for her to believe that you are truly a part of her days before you would truly see my girl. Oh yes, I get the madness too. But I also get the other face… the one that is sitting by my chair every morning, absolutely still apart from the tip of a furiously wagging tail, waiting for her cuddles… the collapsible dog who flops into a small, soft heap of silky fur on the floor with me. This is the Ani who will curl up quietly at my feet while I write, or sit on the sofa back behind me when I read, her head on my shoulder, cheek to cheek. The soft, silent presence whose head comes to rest on my knee as she gazes up at me with those big, brown eyes. The girl who occupies herself when I am busy, and yet is alert to every perceived threat, warning me of postmen and passers-by. The earth-child who knows my every emotion and is always there.
I have to wonder if Robert Browning had a dog like Ani who highlighted the difference between the public and private faces. It is something we are all aware of, but are so accustomed to we seldom really see, especially in ourselves; how the ‘soul-side’ we show changes with the relationships we build. It isn’t just a question of the social masks we continually don and remove to suit the circumstance and the company, the reactive theatrical constructs that show the world, and ourselves, the face we choose… it goes deeper than that.
Over the course of a lifetime there may only be a few, a very few, to whom we can show that second ‘soul-side’. Most of our lives it is hidden in animation. With some few we can simply be. The silences comfortable and companionable, conversation easy and laughter unforced. Emotions need not be hidden and the sharing goes deep, crossing the unconscious barriers we keep between ourselves and the world as if they simply do not exist… and indeed, with these few, they do not. Love, after all, is a simple thing… it is usually only we ourselves who complicate it with the reflected expectations of society.
A dog asks little from us except love and care. Neither do these few. Yet because they ask so little, we can give so much… and the more of our selves we give, the more we have to give. And in that there is beauty.