That time I had bronchitis and made the best decision of my life

Now, we all have secret little obsessions that we feel guilty about. Or, in fact, big fixations that occupy a lot of our time.

It’s a terrible thing to walk around with this piece of knowledge about yourself that no-one else shares, and it is just eating you up from the inside. And the more you think about it, the more it gets a life of its own and grows from a mole to a mountain in no time.  You occasionally panic about this dark part of yourself, and then your ego comes to the rescue and tells you: “Come on, it is not that bad. Other people do much worse things and nobody thinks they’re bad seeds. Get a grip and live a little! Just one more …”

From many years of eperience, I have come to realize that there is only one way to negotiate with this dark knowledge of yourself; the thing you realize you do not have total control over. We can try to explain it away with a kind of “ya, it’s just a tiny bit of OCD”, but in fact, this particular little niggly-thingy has a life of its own. You tell yourself that it’s not that bad or doesn’t take up to much of your time, or that it is totally innocent with no consequences for anyone. But why then does one feel a bit guilty? If it is not that wrong and not that time-consuming, why can’t you stop doing it?

I have several examples. I know this territory. One of my personal addictions, being a woman, is to visit bridal websites. I first want to get the story of how the couple met. Then I revel in the delightful flowers, the captivating fairy-bride, the sexy groom, his dishy groomsmen with six-packs, the sumptuous food, candles, cutlery, and dresses: the everything, in fact! I sit in judgment about all the money that has been splurged on decorations, while other people have no food. I decide that this particular bride’s dress is just a bit too scanty to be proper. I study their facial expressions to establish if they are really, really happy and in love and compatible. (Hmm, I don’t think this will last, and now they have wasted all this money on this lavish affair.)

I suppose this is fine since these websites put up the pics for people to look at. But here is the bad part: me, I need to take it tone step further. One of my existential reasons for existence is stories. I have studied communication and psychology, and I am mesmerized by the stories I see, hear and read. People, their stories, their communication, their actions – yes!

So, of course, it’s just one hop from the wedding website to Facebook to learn more about who they are, what careers they are following, snooping on the mothers, indulging in their happiness and smiles and histories. I am, of course, critically aware of the absolute dangers of social media. I mean, while it is there, we can use it, not? But do we ever wonder who spends hours looking at our photos (or weddings)?  This emotional baggage became a bit heavy, I shared it with my daughters and immediately felt better. Good gracious, they are doing it too! My advice? If you have a naughty pastime, discuss it with someone close, and you may find that it is not all that rare and evil.

However, there is something else I have no control over. (I will talk about books another day.) I stand defenseless, at the mercy of this hunger. I love dogs, obsessively. I am not rational or reasonable when it comes to dogs. I will talk to strange dogs, and if I say one just jaywalking in the street, I need to chat him or her up and take them home.  My family are all aware of this, and I try to employ strict measures against these type of tempting situations and places.

I once, I swear to you, in 1981 on a brilliant Saturday morning, had to use my very last money for the month for a lovely fresh bread at a bakery nearby. Happily, I trotted off to buy my scrumptious loaf of bread. But when I entered the bakery, I became aware of the pet shop next door. It was like an alarm going off in my head. In the window, literally like the song, was a miniature, fluffy, clumsy, dazed puppy. It took only twenty seconds to decide that man can live without bread, but not without dog. I was living in an apartment, was working in uniform, but I asked permission to bring him to work and the arrangement continued for a good while.

Another time, in 2004, this fixation also got the better of me and lead me straight to the edge. We had an adorable, clever, loving German Shepherd at the time; really a pup, still. We were fighting each other in the evenings to have her on our laps. Sadly, she quickly outgrew our need to pass her from lap to lap.

That particular Saturday – this seems to be the regular time when I walk into temptation? – I got up and announced: “I need a small dog to keep on my lap while I am watching television or work on my computer; I am going to search for a puppy now”. (I may have had a fever.)

I had this nasty bout of bronchitis and made an appointment with my awesome GP. But I also decided that I will do a quick rounds of the shelters to see if I could not find a puppy, so that he or she could help me feel better and get over the flu. My eldest daughter laughed: “I better need to come with you, else you might return to home with a trunk full of dogs”. I was offended; I am a responsible academic and rational mother and well-behaved daughter.  She nodded her head in response.

Off we went in the white Golf. I stopped in at various vets and a farmer’s market, and even a lodge for dogs, but saw nothing. We opted for the SPCA, just outside the city. I told the receptionist that I am searching for a smaller dog that I could mollycoddle on my lap. She took one look at me, had a flash of instinctive recognition, and said that a rescue had arrived during the previous night; I should go have a look in the overnight shelter.

When we turned the cage’s corner, I gasped. There was this bedraggled, tiny Maltese-type mommy, dirty and quite ugly. But she had the hugest, most soulful eyes I had ever seen. It seemed as if she screamed: save me from this impossible brood and cage! Around her, over her and still sucking on her were the six most gorgeous, fuzzy black and white little pups: four girls and two boys. They were wrestling and jumping and snarling and yelping and rolling everywhere. I exercised control with every fiber of my being and went to reception to tell the caretaker that I would love to take three: two pups and this desperate mommy.

This intuitive woman looked at me, tilted her head, and asked: “Aww, why don’t you take all seven; they are so delicious! How can you break them up; how are you going to feel?”

I concurred without argument. “Okay, I will take all seven.” I literally heard myself saying this. Within minutes, my daughter and I, and two workers were lined up in the reception room for the pups’ shots and deworming.  I became the heroine of the SPCA for a long time to come. I paid a small donation and we put them all in the car’s trunk (as my daughter had predicted) and drove home. I felt astounded: I was a single mom, and overstretched as it was. What will my parents and other people think of me? (That’s when you know your fixation got the better of you.)

We found lovely names for them all. That mommy emotionally latched onto me, right away. She left the pups at night, climbed through gates and slipped in to get to me. She never wanted to be more than one meter from me, ever again. I nervously phoned my parents who lived around the corner to come over to see what I had bought. Neither my mom nor dad said a word. They sighed, and sat down heavily; they looked bemused at this unkempt, scruffy mother with six fluffy soft toys sucking on her. I started to wonder: what have I done? But I could not turn back, could I?

The mommy later went to live with my mom, since she and the German shepherd were at war to be with me. We kept two girls: Meimei and Little Pup. The other four I gave to good people who reacted to my advertisement.

To this day, Meimei is my soul mate, my best friend, my sounding board, my caretaker, my loved one. Little Pup was unfortunately run over one day they got out.


Whew, so, the secret has been shared. I am totally senseless and absurd when it comes to dogs. I argue it’s better to obsess about dogs than many other things, like wine or cigarettes or men. Don’t you think?