American country musician Tom T Hall sung, “Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime, but old dogs and children and watermelon wine.”
I can’t vouch for the watermelon wine, but I reckon he hit the nail on the head with the first two in his song, Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine.
My 16-year-old cocker spaniel, Indie, could easily be mistaken for a smelly, well-worn floor rug but he means more to me than words can say.
Yes, he’s lost an eye. Yes, he barks at 4:30 am for breakfast. Yes, he’s more than a little pungent. But I thank god for every extra night I go to sleep to the sound of his soulful snores.
I feel we’ve been on bonus time for years. Indie has twice been bitten by ticks, was barreled over by a car, wandered off – deaf and half-blind – into the bush after the fires, and has fallen off a deck, but I’m still not sure how I’ll cope without him.
He’s gotten me through separation, divorce, empty nest syndrome, redundancy, bushfires and a pandemic. Sure, the relationship is a tad abusive – when he barks, I jump to open doors, put out food or just hold his ear when he’s feeling anxious – but it’s a crucial part of my life.
I was reflecting on the importance of animals – and children – when we, as a nation, recently began staring at the possibility of a second lockdown square in the face.
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My children and I recently made a tree change to four hectares of pure heaven at the back of Malua Bay, south of Batemans Bay. When I say children, I use the term loosely given my youngest is now aged 23, but the extra room means they could make their own independent homes without drowning in mortgage debt.
I’ve never been happier than having the room to grow my merry band of animals and spend more time with my adult children.
So when we went into lockdown earlier this year, I was in a privileged position. I had my nearest and dearest close, my pets to care for and more than enough bushfire cleanup work to make the absence of an actual job purely academic.
For months, I’d been hunkered down on our little patch of dirt with no real hankering to go anywhere or do anything else.
But suddenly I couldn’t – and that changes everything.
I yearned to visit my mum and dad in Cowra, have a coffee with friends, go for a night out with my partner, visit a cinema, or even wander around the shops. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, lockdown makes the body want to wander.
So if I, in my enviable position, was feeling the shackles on a four-hectare rural block, what was it like for a young family in a Canberra unit? Or an elderly person confined to their nursing home room? Or grandparents unable to cuddle their grandchildren? Or families split by state borders? Or young adults living alone?
I shudder at the thought.
Quite clearly, mental health impacts will be far-reaching and talk of a second wave is only making that worse.
If nothing else, the COVID-19 experience has taught me what’s important in my life: family, friends (both two-legged and four-legged) and freedom.
What has it taught you?
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