My husband is lobbying for a third dog.
This, along with a new set of tweeds and a tin of biscuits, will put us on the road to our dream life being reenactors of the characters in All Creatures Great and Small, the PBS series inspired by Yorkshire veterinarian James Herriot’s lovely books. We would need to have a cat flicking its tail over our sugar bowl and maybe a wee herd of pigs in the yard and we’d have it. Doors slamming, phones ringing, calves being born in the middle of the night, a great littering of dogs everywhere, barking, scampering through the house and down the lane, hubbub, we would have a lot of hubbub.
We would have good physical work saving all the big and little animals from sickness and death and we would wear rubber farm boots up to our knees and hike the moors, always bundled up and a little damp. Both of us would have walking sticks.
Q: Wouldn’t it be easier to just say no to a third dog?
A: Maybe. But then I wouldn’t be thinking it through. You know, how a third dog could maybe make me feel. Dashing, robust.
Q: If you think a third dog would do that for you, do it! Why not? Life is short.
A: I’ve heard.
Q: You only live once. Go for it!
A: There’s the slightest patronizing tinge in your voice. It’s how people who aren’t old talk to people who are. Like “good for you!” if they take a yoga class or walk to the drugstore.
Q: Okay. Never mind. Don’t get a third dog.
A: I might not.
Helen Herriot was James Herriot’s wife. In the TV series, she was played by Carol Drinkwater, a lovely woman with a broad friendly face and dark wavy hair. When we used to watch the program during Sunday night dinner, I could see myself as Helen. Competent, happy, understanding but not with her own arm up the rear end of a distressed cow in labor. That would be James, alone in a freezing barn somewhere off in the Yorkshire dark. Helen would be home sleeping in her long cotton nightgown. When James came home, all of the dogs would run to the door, jump up and put their paws on his bloodstained shirt and then trot away to go back to sleep. Helen would murmur a hello and wake up hours later to make oatmeal.
Can you see the attraction of this life?
I know it’s too late for me. I can’t be Helen because there already was a Helen, both a real one and a reenacted one. James is dead, anyway. They’re all dead, including their dogs. So I pretty much have to consider that gambit a closed door.
It’s not the only one. There are others. Maybe we should get the dog.