how george saved my life

I haven’t gone to the bathroom by myself in almost 13 years. You may think this a strange confession, but it’s true; it’s also true that I would not have had it any other way. Thirteen years ago, my friend and art teacher, Robbie, had decided to breed his lovely brindle boxer, Zeek. This large, big-headed lug stole my heart from our very first meeting, when he placed his head in my lap as I was trying to paint my very first masterpiece. I was nervous, and certainly not self-confident in pretty much anything in my life, but this beautiful boy moved me to tears of happiness just by staring into his entrancing, chocolate-brown eyes, so full of love I thought they might overflow, and I might overflow myself with such a display of acceptance.

A year later, and Zeek’s clone was sleeping in my lap, and I was the proud mama of a eight-week-old brindle bundle of love, his head bigger than his body and his contented snores filling the space in my ex-boyfriend’s car. It would be months and years of training, bathroom breaks every two hours, offering rewards for a good sit, stay and come. It would mean a chewed high heel (he got only one), constantly keeping him away from my socks and underwear, and the ability to go on vacation at the last minute, far removed from my memory.

And, it was all worth it. I named him Kao (pronounced K-O, as he is a boxer), and he’s taken up the post in my life as my Little Big Man. He’s my best friend, the love of my life and honestly, sometimes the only reason I get out of bed in the morning.

I live, and have lived, with anxiety and depression for the last 20 years. It came in drips and drabs at first, mostly situational (read mentally and verbally abusive relationships, loss of job, death of a loved one, loss of a relationship that I had not realized was toxic at the time). However well controlled with medication and rounds of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) over the years, both depression and its horrible sister anxiety still rear their ugly and unwelcome heads during stress and upheaval. I fully believe in the benefits of self-analysis and in talk therapy, and anything else I could try to keep the voices in my psyche from taking up permanent residence, but what has been constant from the first night he came into my life, is the steadfast love and support from my boxer beast. He adores me, and I adore him. He looks at me as a whole person and as his whole world, and no matter what the day or the mood, I am complete, I am enough for him, just as I am. There’s no hidden agenda unless it’s to get another treat. There’s no manipulation (again, treat). There are no expectations of being perfect, or of what I can do for him; we just are.

When I moved to West Lothian, Scotland, there was no doubt that Kao would come with me. Many people said “Oh, I’ll take him” or “You’re not bringing him with you, are you?” Or, even better, “Why are you even going? You know it will just be transferring your life here to another place. You won’t be happy.”

My biggest concern was not my own happiness; I was realizing a lifelong dream and it was MY life, so of course, I would be happy. My first thought was Kao’s advancing age and health. Here I was flying a then 12-year-old boxer 3,000 miles away from Canada, his only home. But then I thought: His home is with me. I am his home, just as much as he is mine.

Fast forward to today, and he’s still the youthful, crazy, loving boy he’s always been. He’s chasing bees in the back garden, suntanning on the patio, and tearing around the gardens with his best friends, Smudge the Yorkie, and Lewis the Human. He’s wiggling with joy, snoring in my ear, and greeting me every morning with a snuggle, a sneeze and chin kisses.

And me? I’m writing a children’s book series about my Little Big Man and his adventures in a small village in Scotland, opening up to new horizons, running through fields with him and counting my good sense to pick him as the love of my life… although I think it was more the fact that we picked each other. He’s my Boyo, he’s my wiggle bum, he’s the reason I look forward to waking up in the morning to continue our adventure together — young at heart, eternally grateful, and wiggling like there’s no one watching.

Linda Erskine,

is a Canadian writer, author, and journalist, who lives with her boxer beast in West Lothian, Scotland. The first in her children’s series, George and Mildred: The Attack of the MeanieGirls, was published in 2020. The second adventure, Life’saBeach, is due to be released in Spring 2021. Linda is also the Director of Children’s Books for Oxygen Publishing, and is constantly inspired by stories. She hopes to guide other authors to realise their authorship potential. Visit www.lindaerskine.com to find out more about George, Mildred and their human, Linda.

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