To the nameless Springer Spaniel:
I want to thank you. I know you don’t know what that means. Heck, you don’t even know me. You wouldn’t even recognize my smell. But you gave me joy my first day here. A piece of home, of my own Springer Spaniel, my precious baby girl. A reminder that I can do this.
You didn’t even see me walk by. But if you did, maybe you would have sensed my exhaustion. It was early afternoon, I had just gotten back from my first excursion into town. I popped onto a bus I happened to come across, prayed it would take me towards food. Wandered off, stumbled upon a map (because I didn’t have wifi at this point), and made my way around the block towards the mall. Bought myself a UK phone plan, sat in a café sipping tea, bought enough food to survive the next few days until I got the hang of things. I adulted like I had never adulted before. I felt empowered. Like superwoman.
But, when I took the twenty minute trek back to my flat, it faded. Quick. You see, I live on the edge of the uni (that’s what they call ‘campus’ here) in the Ali Courts. Over the bridge, past the castle, behind the golf course. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful walk. I get my 10,000 daily fitbit steps in by noon every day. But on that first day, it didn’t matter. I wanted my friends, my campus. I wanted my country, my people. And I wanted my family, my mom. The bed beside me called to me. It was tempting, but it was only two o’clock and I needed to fight off the jet-lag. I needed to shed off the desire to get back on the plane, back towards the familiar.
That’s when I first saw you. Bouncing through the snow-covered ground. Getting your paws wet in the loch at the uni (here a loch is a lake). Enjoying this beautiful place. I decided to walk around its entirety. I saw swans bigger than any I’ve ever seen. A father breaking pieces of bread off for his son to feed to the ducks. His accent rich, enchanting. Trees like you only see in Harry Potter, big and magical as you walk by. It took an hour’s time. My heart smiled. Being here suddenly felt like a dream, one I didn’t want to wake from, not yet.
See, you’re not just a nameless dog. You’re the hug from a friend-to-be reminding me that I can find a home here. You’re the blue sky piercing through the ever-present clouds. The castle I pass on my way to class. The classmate I meet who makes me laugh. You’re the surprise waiting around the corner, of something new, something familiar. Something to open my eyes a little more.
You’re the reminder I need when I can’t flush the toilet. Or when the shower burns my skin because I don’t yet know how to set it. When I say dollar instead of pound to the bus driver who looks at me as if I have five heads. And I say ‘what’, yet again, as I try, and fail, to understand the thick accent.
You see, the sun sets by 16:30 here. It’s been a week, and I’ve felt the darkness. But it rises again. It swims among the clouds and reflects off the water. I’m deciding to count it all beautiful. I’m deciding to look for you again, playing inside my new home.