Before I can go on

I need to write this purely personal post before I can continue.

I am a firm believer in the relevance of thinking about identities, and this has featured often on my blog [1]. Unsurprisingly, I have also thought a lot about my own identities and how they connect me to others and the world around me.

However, although I am so aware of everything that makes me, there was one identity whose central importance to my being I had underestimated.

The story begins in my childhood. I am my father’s only child, and it was he who raised me. He must have liked German Shepherd Dogs, because from my first day home there was always one around. They were a key feature of my life with my father. And they were my playmates, my protectors, and my friends who would listen and give me comfort throughout the years of my father’s illness. When our last dog passed away and my father decided not to get another, it became the marker of the sadness to come. Not soon after, my father passed away and from one day to the next, an entirely different life began for me.

Different is not all bad. I became the person as whom I identify today: I love living in and with different cultures, I am Scottish and American as much as I am German and proud of it, I like exploring new concepts and I am not afraid to seek them out.

There was just one dream for many, many years that I couldn’t fulfill myself: and that was to get a German Shepherd. When I finally felt safely settled enough in my life, I met my future dog’s mother. In my diary that night I wrote that as soon as I smelt her I was reminded of our house at home, of the safety and love I felt as a child. Suddenly, I wrote, I understood what had been missing.

Seven months later, my Eila was born. Nine weeks after that I brought her home. For nearly fourteen years, Eila has been my constant companion. She grew up on Culloden Battlefield where I worked, was there when I finished my MSc in Interpretation Management, accompanied me back and forth numerous times between Scotland, England and Germany as I did my PhD research. Together, we’ve lived in so many different places, and my memories of them are infused with memories of her.

When I had to make the devastating decision to help Eila pass on last November, my first thought was that I do not exist without her. I am still not sure that I do. Eila enabled me to live an aspect of myself that connected me right back to my origins while at the same time making me a dog’s human again with all the connections that gives.

Through Eila, I did indeed become whole.


[1] In fact, together with fellow culture and heritage enthusiast Adam Ditchburn I am planning a podcast on identities in the broadest sense. But more about that another time, when things are looking up.

4 thoughts on “Before I can go on

  1. Thank you for writing and sharing this Nicole. Learning of that connection through Eila back to childhood memory really helps emphasise just what she gave your life. Thinking of you, and thanking you for the opportunity to meet your wonderful girl! And that’s a fantastic pic of you both too!

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