Stephen Harper bears a striking resemblance to my old dog Leshi, I noticed.
Like our prime minister, not that long ago she also found her role as ruler of the pack slipping away. She is deaf to most things, and her vision is very questionable. She has always been a no-nonsense kind of dog and I have never had any doubt that she is a real redneck.
But luckily, there are also pronounced differences between the two. Leshi, now well into her 14th year, passed on her leadership post to the closest contender without any need for me to assume a Governor General role and artificially prop her up.
Without any animosities or fights, Leshi settled into retirement, retaining an important consultant position in times of uncertainty, while Milan took over as head of the pack.
Living with an old and increasingly frail dog without easy accessibility of veterinary care is at times distressing but also a chance to learn a lot, I find: about dog care, dog-human relationships and politics.
Luckily, I don’t have to worry about car traffic out here, which would be quite a danger to her. She only hears the very loudest noises now and getting her attention when she wanders off to investigate something of interest has become a bit of a challenge. Loud handclapping, shouting and waving of arms works but is entirely dependent on the wind direction and her field of vision.
When her hearing deteriorated, apparently quite rapidly, she was perplexed and bewildered about a world that had changed and which she suddenly didn’t quite understand anymore — much like Harper in recent days. Contrary to him however, she showed no anger or clung to a post she wasn’t trusted with anymore; instead, she sought much closer contact with everyone around her.
It brought a new level of intimacy to my relationship with her; always alerting her if I am about to go anywhere, constantly checking that she doesn’t lose track of us, and talking into her ear. I don’t know if she can hear my voice that way, but she loves the close contact and presses her ear against my mouth, with her eyes half-closed and a look of meditation on her face. I’m equally fond of these peaceful chats, even though they always leave me with a generous mouthful of dog hair.
On bad days, after a long nap her hind legs get too stiff for her to stand up on her own and I gently lift her to her feet, holding her up until she stretches the old bones into service yet again. But whenever there is much agitation in the cabin because of feeding time or when I’m getting ready for a walk with the dogs, she wastes no time in jumping up and joining the commotion.
Admittedly, she does often miss the point when the other dogs start barking excitedly because there is a moose in the yard.
Like Harper, she just can’t see what all the fuss is about and looks around in confusion with a thorough lack of understanding. But then she always opts for co-operating with the other dogs and joins them in their actions. I’d hate to call them the Opposition. They are so different from each other that surely they are separate parties, but they have been in a very successful coalition for years.
I had been a bit worried when I noticed, as did the other dogs, that Leshi wasn’t really up to her job anymore. The dogs get along well, but I thought Milan might pick fights with her to establish a new order.
He has always thought rather much of himself and was quite keen on calling the shots.
However, Leshi is a very sweet-tempered and courageous dog who had always ruled with sheer presence and personality rather than aggression and intimidation.
So it wasn’t that much of a surprise that she had the wisdom to throw her support behind Milan instead of blindly clinging to power. It turned out to be such a smooth transition phase that it was barely a perceptible change in leadership, without much posturing and without a single fight.
Of course I never expected Harper to show any of the insight my old dog displays; from what I’ve heard, he is a cat person.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the
headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.