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Episode 17 of ISCP member Rowena’s developing relationship with Cauta, her adopted Romanian street dog.

This week I have mostly been thinking on what is other in Cauta. How our companion animals are both simultaneously intensely with us, but also remain undeniable separate.

Reading ‘Melancholia’s Dog’ by Alice Kuzniar has prompted this, as has the experience of existing with Cauta.

Since the beginning there has been an intermittent sense of puzzlement and anxiety that can verge on despair, which has haunted our time together. I have struggled to understand the intense, conflicting emotions that can be triggered with Cauta. I imagine I am not alone in feeling this, how adoption can stir a mixed bag of emotions, particularly in the early days. Perhaps there is a sense of shame in acknowledging this, that things are not always a technicolour dream. We are all still learning and I imagine this never ends.

Alice Kuzniar writes about the nature of sharing a life with a dog, how it can be a process of becoming more than what we were, and challenges what we thought we knew. She quotes from Rhoda Lerman’s book, ‘In the company of Newfies: A shared life’:

‘I slip the halter of what I have become. They slip the halter of what they have been, and we live together…changed.’ (p.125)

And, ‘I work to be other than what I am. We stretch our limits and change our lives’. (p.127)

This speaks to how the experience of living alongside each other changes each our perspectives. What I thought I knew turns out to be built on shifting sands, and this can be unsettling in itself. There is work to be done in adaptation, on both sides, and what is in the future remains unknowable. There is not an end goal, but a tapestry interweaving as we move along together.

Cauta will remain other; he is a dog, another species, who speaks a different language. I can acknowledge and respect this, and try to learn this language, but he will always remain mysterious, holding that which as a human I cannot know.

So the ‘being with’ is not a fusion, but a mutuality based on an acknowledgement of separateness.

I’ll end on this quote, and invite you to substitute the leash for relationship, as this is what it all comes down to:

‘The leash is both faith and connection.’ (p.127)