THE FOO DOGS
by Corinne Copnick*
My metamorphosis from dependence to independence, my decision to survive began with the Foo Dogs. It all started with the Foo Dogs. That was the day I decided I wasn’t helpless anymore. They were almost five feet tall, oriental antiques cast in solid bronze and weighing several hundred pounds each. They are supposed to protect you against evil spirits. I had brought them with me from Montreal to Toronto with one hundred and fifty boxes of assorted goods interspersed with my antiques and furniture.
The remnants of a ten room Georgian house in a well-to-do suburb of Montreal and a gracious, loved art gallery on downtown Guy Street. Near the stained glass windows of a fine French restaurant and that prestigious men’s refuge, The Club. The remnants of a divorce. Everything I had been through in the last four years, including four robberies and three reactive car accidents, seemed to crystallize itself in the task at hand. And, in the crystal ball of that moment, I knew that I was not only on my own in the mammoth task at hand – to place the huge pieces all by myself in my new apartment – but that I was on my own in life, too.
I could have waited until help was obtainable later in the week, but, all of a sudden, it seemed as if placing the Foo Dogs all by myself was a test of my ability to survive.
So I tugged and strained and developed a method. If I pulled on the tail at a particular angle, I discovered that I could move one end in the direction I wanted to go just an inch or two. Then, if I moved the head and front legs to match, I could make another inch of progress. In this manner, I moved the bronze Foo Dogs, the Yin and Yang of my life, across the living room to the positions I desired.
It took me two hours. I was so exhausted afterward that I spent the next two days, off and on, in bed just recuperating. But inside I felt strong. I knew that as a woman of my own generation, “the fifties”, bred to depend on a male physically, financially, and emotionally, I had coped with what seemed impossible for my physical strength. Now the Foo Dogs were in position to protect me. In my first days in Toronto, I knew almost no one. So I gave my Foo Dogs a hug every time I came in. So what if my affection was wasted on two cold statues. They were my friends. They greeted me like immobile, oversize puppies.
There was a side benefit from my efforts. Although I had owned the oriental antique dogs (originally they guarded a Temple Palace in China) for seven years, I had never noticed before the gender of the bronze pieces. Lying there pulling them this way and that way from my floor position, the gender factor became obvious.
So my friends were a couple. In my imagination they became a symbol of what I wanted to attain. A male partner complementing my femaleness and standing side by side with me. Proud and tall and solid like the Foo Dogs.
That day I became a survivor. I was tackling my life. I was tackling the primary agenda.
(Excerpted from HOW TO LIVE ALONE UNTIL YOU LIKE IT… AND THEN YOU ARE READY FOR SOMEBODY ELSE, Toronto, 1994. All rights reserved. Reprinted in JEWISH LIFE, Toronto, 1994.)