Iona is 172 days old. It is gone 10.30 when she finally goes down. I’ve been up here for almost two hours, trying to get her to sleep. She’s overtired. I am too. Gently I lift her from my warm bed and carry her in my arms to her cot, all the while making quiet sshhh noises to let her know her mummy is right here.
I lay her down and the coolness of the cot sheet makes her stir a little. She tosses and turns and kicks her covers right off. ‘Ssshhh’ I repeat, softly stroking the top of her head and placing her blankets over her again. Finally after a few minutes, her breathing changes and I know she is in a deeper sleep.
As I tiptoe quietly back over to my bed, careful to avoid the creaky floorboard, he looks at me with those eyes. ‘No, not tonight,’ I say, guiltily. It’s been a while. He sighs deeply and turns his head away. ‘Oh, OK, come up th…’ I haven’t even finished the sentence and he’s leapt up on the bed, tail wagging furiously, head nuzzled into my chest doing those cute little nibbles he does when he’s really excited. ‘Ssshhh, ” I say, ‘you’ll wake the baby.’ He rolls over onto his back and I scratch his chin and rub his belly, just like in the old days.
You may have gathered by now that I’m talking about my dog. His name is Zohar and he’s a four year-old Weimaraner with the most beautiful nature you could wish for. For the first three or so years of Zohar’s life, there was just him and me really. We lived in a small village with a huge stretch of empty, unspoilt beach and a big forest. We had a real wood stove and a battered old sofa that was big enough for the two of us to share. Life for Zohar was an endless succession of long walks, chasing sticks and lounging belly-up by the fire with his best friend in all of the world – yours truly.
And then I moved to the city and then I met Grant, and then I met his daughters, and then we had Iona and suddenly Zohar’s world was turned upside down. The early morning beach walk was replaced with a lunchtime stroll in a city park. The days of chasing sticks were numbered too – the ever growing baby bump put paid to that. And as for all of those belly rubs and ear scratches and lying curled up on the sofa together? Well, you’d need a pretty big sofa to fit two adults, two children, a baby and a 80lb dog.
With all of my attention being focussed on the new baby, or her big sisters, or indeed the ‘new’ man about the house, I’d have forgiven Zohar for being a little jealous. You hear stories about that all the time. But the thing is I don’t believe dogs share the human emotion of jealousy. They’re far too civilised. Yes, he might try harder to get my attention these days, but that’s because he needs to. In fact, I’m amazed by the way Zohar has embraced Iona. Guess who’s first at her cot whenever she as much as makes a whimper? Guess who sniffs and nuzzles her tenderly each morning? Guess who keeps a close eye on strangers who get too close to her? Yes, Zohar is shaping up to be the perfect big brother. And as we all know, big brothers get to stay up a little later than baby sisters. Just late enough to squeeze in a few belly rubs, ear scratches and baby-free quality time with his old friend.