Responsibility: the word alone makes me tense up. In fact, I couldn’t even remember the topic I’d decided to write about today. Ah, responsibility, I’m beginning to understand that you are my friend.
To the outside world I’m sure I appear very responsible and the truth is, I am… but lately I have come to understand responsibility on a much deeper level and I’ve discovered that the more responsible I become, the more I begin to see my irresponsible ways. Ouch.
At the moment I am looking after a house, a bird and two dogs for friends on their honeymoon. When my partner and I accepted this responsibility, we knew that we would take care of the place as if it were our own, and we knew that the way we lived in the house would be felt by the family that lives there.
Day two of our housesitting adventure signalled a sleepless induction into the wild world of dog guardianship when our new charges decided it would be fun to bark… all night…. non-stop…. no breaks. In the morning I was plotting dog murder but my gorgeous partner reminded me that the dogs were simply reflecting something to us. Rather than choosing irresponsibility, it was time to up the ante and bring more love to the house and its occupants.
For context, the dogs we were charged with are rescue dogs from dubious and unfriendly backgrounds, and although their current owners love them to pieces and have nursed them back to health, some scars still remain. We brought a deeper understanding to the situation the dogs found themselves in, knowing that having a temporary new family was a big adjustment for them.
We began to walk the dogs twice a day, morning and night, and we did this religiously. We made time to connect with them and truly support them through what was for them (and us) a challenging time. On day three the vomiting started (for one of the dogs). Soon after it was clear that someone was no longer in control of any bodily functions (thankfully, one of the dogs again). Something was very wrong and it was time to go to the vet.
I was faced with another moment to ponder responsibility; how do I balance my responsibility to show up to work with my responsibility to care for an animal that needs medical attention? It was a no-brainer. The dog needed professional help. Off to the vet we went.
I explained the situation to my boss and my predicament was received with understanding. I was able to get much of my work done from home while I nursed gastro dog back to health. It was up to me to ensure my work didn’t fall behind. I was being asked to take responsibility on many levels, and it felt great.
And those twice-daily walks? They supported far more than just the dogs. My partner and I discovered that this time together, walking the dogs, also allowed us to deepen and strengthen our relationship with our bodies, ourselves and each other. This experience enabled me to see that responsibility is supportive rather than burdensome.
My dog/bird/house sitting experience taught me a lot about my relationship with responsibility. In the end, walking and connecting wasn’t enough to guarantee a good night’s sleep and this showed me that everyone (including dogs) needs space to be where they are at. We cannot always change other people, dogs or the circumstances we find ourselves in, but if we see every aspect of life as a reflection, we can respond with responsibility.
By Leonne Sharkey – Melbourne