Monday, 3 March 2014

I is for Irma

Frihamras Irma La Douce and I have known each other since the summer of 2008. She was three years old at the time. I overcame my fear of dogs and stepped into Irma’s home for the first time to help her breeder with email correspondence in English. This is when I first became aware of a brown standard poodle – among the many others living in the breeder’s home – who constantly sought me out and indicated that for her I was someone special.

It was, in fact, the beginning of a ‘love affair’ that has continued and deepened. In December 2012 Irma became my dog. I bought her from the breeder and she and I have been joined at the hip ever since.

To backtrack, when I was four years old I had a traumatic experience with an Alsatian dog that continued to haunt me for years. Every time I saw a dog I froze, terrified to the core that it would attack me. It didn’t matter how often a dog owner told me that their dog would never hurt a fly. I simply could not believe them.

When we moved into the house next door to the kennel where Irma was born and raised, I told the breeder that I was afraid of dogs. She respected this and kept her dogs inside whenever I was went to the end of the path to collect our post. However, one day, she asked me if I could help her with email correspondence in English, because she had received a request from someone in Australia who was interested in buying one of her dog’s new born pups. Before I realised what I was letting myself in for I said yes, I would gladly help.

Into the house I went. I was met by a sea of brown doggy faces and bodies and didn’t quite know where to put myself. They didn’t seem unfriendly, although I hurried upstairs to the computer and busied myself with the task in hand. One dog followed me and lay at my feet while I was typing. The correspondence was intense and I found myself summoned to the house quite regularly. Each time, the same dog followed me and lay under the table, beside my feet. This was Irma.

A week or two later the breeder told me that her husband was to have a knee operation and would not be able to help her to walk the dogs as usual. I heard myself volunteering to help! Punctually each day I presented myself at the appointed time and was assigned to walk with Aida, Irma’s mum. She was the leader of the pack and the most docile. In fact Aida was a doddle, and I began to enjoy the daily walks. It did not escape my notice, or that of the breeder, that every time I walked up the path to the house, Irma raced to the door to be the first to greet me. As soon as the door opened to let me in, Irma was there to twirl around my legs and let me know that I was ‘hers’. The breeder was flabbergasted at this behaviour, because it was the first time that Irma had showed her feelings to any living person. I later learned that Irma was stressed in the pack and was a bit of a lone wolf. When I left the dogs after the daily walk Irma would gaze soulfully at me, and linger outside the door with her tail between her legs.

After a while the breeder asked me if I would like to take Irma home with me for an hour or two after the walk. I was reluctant at first, but soon came round to the idea. Just before Irma’s first visit I cleaned the whole house in her honour! To me she was an Important Guest, and everything had to be spick and span. The two hour visits soon turned into a whole evening and overnight stay. When Irma saw her doggy basket being handed over to me her eyes nearly popped out of her head! I can remember it clearly. She wagged her tail all the way down to what the breeder called ‘the hotel’ (i.e. our house).

I guess that Irma and I were meant to be a pair. When my husband and I moved to Nässjö in December 2010 Irma came with us, ‘on loan’. As the breeder wanted to take another litter from her (she had already had 10 pups in one fell swoop) I was obliged to take her back to the kennels for a 4-month stay so that she could meet her mate and have her pups. During those 4 months I thought that my world had come to an end. Life was so empty without her and I could hardly walk the tracks we had walked together without tears rolling down my face. When I could at last have her back, the breeder let me buy Irma out, so that she and I could live life together in peace.

Irma loves Meeting for Worship and is part of the Småland Worship Group. She has also been accepted as an Extra-ordinary member of Sweden Yearly Meeting. She comes with us to some of the meetings of the local Social Democrats too – especially if these meetings are one-day affairs. As long as she is with me she is happy.

I never in a month of Sundays thought that I would ever have a dog of my own. But Irma is not just an ordinary dog. To me she is very special, and it would seem that I am very special to her. She chose me, and we are inseparable. 

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