the cavoodle that builds a community


Perhaps that was my alarm at the latest warnings of climate catastrophe, as well as those nightmarish scenes from Kabul that filled our screens every night. Or maybe it’s halfway through the recent Sydney lockdown, amid the growing number of sick and dead around the world, the endless specter of shattered lives and livelihoods, and the relentless parade of human madness disguised as free thought, I decided to do what everyone else in my neighborhood seems to have done for the past 18 months.

Buy a puppy.

The idea was that I would be co-parenting with my youngest daughter Hannah, who lives next door to me. We would buy a cavoodle because, as the promos told us, they combined the best traits of the rider and the poodle: “intelligent, affectionate, playful, eager to please, eager to train and obedient”. Plus, they were gorgeous, didn’t shed hair, and suited small apartments well.

We met on FaceTime, loved it right away, and then the breeder gave us exactly 15 minutes to make a decision before putting it up for sale online.

I thought about the order of my life, the cleanliness, the structures, the routines, the freedoms that I had learned to cherish. I likened this to the potential joy of a co-parenting business with my daughter, as well as the importance – in my case – of refusing to let the habits of the body and mind harden at the end of the day. the fifties.

After 15 consecutive minutes, I said to Hannah, “Okay, let’s go” and three days later this adorable little bundle of shaking red hair arrived at my door. We called her Honey.

I barely slept those first four nights as I listened to his heartbreaking meows over the Spotify Puppy classical music playlist I had rehearsed beside his upstairs enclosure. I have struggled with demons, old and new. I was a terrible sleeper, even at the best of times.

It would be a disaster.

I hadn’t thought of consulting my partner on what this would mean for our lives. (Note to dismayed readers: we live apart but, I know, a bad excuse. Plus, she already had a cavoodle that I loved.)

It could turn out to be a double disaster.

I didn’t fully take into account my previous experience as a dog owner – an abysmal failure by any means – and how little I knew about raising puppies. I also didn’t count with my knowledge of how the choices we make often follow us through life.

I was like, “David, this might be the dumbest decision you’ve ever made in your life. Have you lost your goddamn mind? “

On the third night Honey managed to make her way out of her enclosure, jump the makeshift barrier on the upstairs landing, then descend a dangerous spiral staircase to stand whining outside my room. It was 2 am and as I took him to my bed – against any advice from the breeder – I thought to myself, “David, this might be the dumbest decision you ever made in your life. Have you lost your goddamn mind? “

Yes, I had, but then things started to change. Honey began to respond to his name. She stopped doing her oopsies on the Persian rug and under my desk, and instead started aiming – albeit imperfectly – at the designated faux grass rugs. She began to respond (with genius intelligence, I must say) to commands like Come. Sit. Leave him.

She started using me as her human pacifier, choking me with hot, wet licks, curling up next to me in a tight ball, lying at my feet, sticking to me like velcro. And she stopped moaning at night, learning to calm down in her zipped – and fixed – enclosure.

The author with his cavoodle, Honey: “Any long-time dog lover will regale you with the extraordinary abilities of a dog.”Credit:Tim bauer

For my part, I started to see the sunrise for the first time since my daughters were young, 25 years ago. I started taking Honey with me down to the beach – liver treats and pieces of diced poached chicken stuffed in my pockets – to watch the seagulls, dogs and humans mix. I started to meet people I would never have met otherwise. Like the soothsayer Susie from North Bondi who asked me “What’s her name?” And, before I could answer, said, “I bet you it’s Honey.”

And Maria from Greece, who had lived on my street for 50 years and who, when she saw Honey, began to choke her with kisses and every word the Greek language had imagined for love. “Come visit anytime,” she said, “and bring some honey. ” Ach mikri mou agapi. (“Oh, my little darling.”)

I met the garbage man who literally crossed the street to hug Honey and then Flora, an old Jewish woman who cooed at the sight of her before telling me how she was interned as a child in a Japanese prisoner of war. camp in Indonesia. “I live right here,” she said. “Please come and visit.”


I met three young Spanish speaking women who had just finished yoga on the grass and saw Honey in my arms and literally rushed towards us like, well, bees. We ended up talking for half an hour – between hugs and hugs – about yoga, the riots in Chile, the theory of attachment and the release of oxytocin that occurs when you love and love it back.

Coming out of the beach one morning, I met an Irishman and his daughter because the dad saw Honey and said, “Very cute. How much did it cost?

“You don’t want to know,” I replied, and somehow this led to a 40 minute conversation about the impoverishment of Ireland in the 1950s, the farm on which he had grown up in the west of the country and the role of music, storytelling and music in the Irish imagination.

Our little puppy will not heal the big tear in the fabric of the world. But in her short life so far, she has changed mine, my daughter’s, my little neighbors’ and maybe the whole building.

In my own apartment building, I had been listening to my downstairs neighbors two children, Izzy and Louis, learning to walk and talk since I moved here six years ago. Suddenly they were visiting because they could smell that my honey could be theirs too. And, just as suddenly, six-year-old Izzy was announcing her intention to have tea in our communal garden, where she would bring the tea and the cookies and I would bring the cheese treats because she already knew how much Honey loved. his cheese. .

My three super cool next door neighbors Josh, Rachel and Ira also fell in love with Honey, and as they did, the four of us seemed to deepen our kinship. Josh and I started playing chess on the landing outside our respective front doors, as Honey moved between our apartments for cuddles with Rachel and Ira.


I spoke to my friend Ruth about all of this once – about how Honey, on her own, was weaving a new community – and she said she now wanted to put her extra fat cat in a backpack so that she could use it. ‘she too can do the same. relationships when she went out to her neighborhood.

Any long-time dog lover will feast you on the extraordinary abilities of a dog. They helped the pioneers of space travel. They can save people from rubble, lead the blind, cushion the wounded, sniff out disease. (Yes, I saw the Netflix episode about dogs in Explain.) What they will also tell you – endlessly, over and over – is that a dog has an infinite capacity for love, and that when a puppy begins to look at you with his eyes, “I t ‘will love forever’, you are crazy. They will tell you for sure, but none of it will register until you feel it for yourself, seeping deep into your own waters.

Our little puppy will not bring peace to the Middle East, of course, nor solve the climate crisis, nor heal the great tear in the fabric of the world. But in her short life so far, she has changed mine, my daughter’s, my little neighbors Izzy and her brother Louis, and maybe the whole building. This is because she turned out – in the words of Victor Hugo – to be “the flower whose love is honey”.

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