Sunday, June 27, 2021

The stories of change our photos show us

The photos we take are a great way to recall events, memories, even things we acquired or merely wanted to acquire. When they’re associated with loss, that can be bittersweet, but it can also give us a chance to kind of take stock of where we’re at, to notice how we pass through our lives. To be a part of our own life, rather than just travel through it. That happened to me today.

Three years ago today, I shared the photo above on Instagram and my personal Facebook. A few days later, I also shared the Instagram post here on this blog. The reason for it was simple: We’d been having trouble with Leo running along the fence and barking a lot at one neighbour’s dog, and that’s why we tried using a clicker to train him to stop doing that. I said in the caption to the photo that Leo “learned VERY quickly and now comes running inside with one click, two at most.” It didn’t last.

Mere days after we started using it, Leo stopped responding to the clicker. As a result, we couldn’t let any of the dogs go outside at ground level unless one of us was there with them—and by “them” I really mean “him”, Leo—he ruined it for all of them.

Then, different neighbours, ones over the fence from the one whose dog Leo barked at, complained because, they said, Leo “always” barked at the wife when she went out to hang the washing on the line (though I was pretty sure he was actually barking at their dog who went outside with her, but never barked back).

One evening, after the dogs were only allowed to go out on the deck upstairs, the guy from that same house yelled at Leo across the yard, because Leo was out on the deck barking at the new housing development nearby and visible from our deck. At the time, nothing was built except for the streets, and young’uns used to drive in there, park, and drink. Leo heard them and didn’t approve. Nigel was asleep at the time and never heard Leo, which was a little unusual. I was working in my office, which was at the opposite side of the house and at ground level, but I eventually heard him, and got to him just in time to hear the guy shouting at Leo. I brought him inside and blocked the dog door so he couldn’t go right back outside to bark some more—because I knew he would.

The next morning, I told Nigel what had happened, and that became the turning point: Nigel decided he wanted to move somewhere more rural, where neighbours weren’t as close or numerous (there were six properties bordering ours). He wanted the dogs to be able to bark if they wanted to, and he wanted to have a small wind turbine to (at least partially) power our house. None of that was possible where we were living.

We looked at one house in person (and many others online), but didn’t pursue it to strongly. We were busy with life. In the meantime, we started barricading the dog door at night so none of them could go out. Because I was always stayed up later than Nigel, I could let the dogs out one last time. They all coped. It took care of the problem, and for a time we thought about staying put and doing up the house (like my painting project in early 2019, for example).

The idea of moving never went away completely, though, and as late as May 2019, Nigel was telling me what he wanted me to do to get ready for us to sell-up and buy a new place (he made a to-do list for me—a common thing he did). Four months later, Nigel was gone.

Now, three years after the photo of Leo and the clicker, I’m living in a different house in a city that was on our “some day” list, with solar power, but with only two of the dogs, without Sunny or our cat Bella, but, and, most importantly of all, without my Nigel. In other words, everything has changed.

Leo is much better now, and he comes inside when I call him or whistle for him (there’s a particular whistle I use), though sometimes I have to add, “want some?” Clearly he’s trained me, too. My new house has “only” four properties bordering the section, though one of them only shares about one metre of boundary with me (that house was built by the same company that built mine, and it was the first adjoining property with a finished house; there’s now one more).

There’s one more thing that’s also changed: The people I sold our old house to in March, 2020, just sold it, and the new owners moved in yesterday. I know that because the next door neighbours, who we became friends with (and I still am), texted me. I looked at the real estate photos online (of course!) and they didn’t change anything inside the house. All they did was remove the grapefruit tree (which Nigel and I wanted to do, but we ran out of time) and they also took out the raised garden bed. Both of those were in my photos in our brief time in that house (the grapefruit tree was part of a photo series I did in 2017, and the raised garden bed was part of a notorious incident I blogged about in May of 2018). I’m actually kind of glad they sold the house—it puts more emotional/existential distance between me and it.

So, yeah, pretty much nothing is the same as it was three years ago when I first shared the photo, including me. That fact isn’t all good, obviously, but it also isn’t all bad. After all, I don’t need to use that clicker with Leo any more..

This is a revised and expanded version of something I posted to my personal Facebook this morning.