When you live in a foreign country, you need to be prepared for your share of ups and downs. There are so many highs that seem to exceed what we ever experienced prior to throwing our family into the unknown. At the same time, the lows can be low. They have the ability to feel more demoralizing when soaked in unfamiliarity.
Beyond these metaphorical ups and downs, it’s funny to think how much of our daily lives since moving to Spain consist of the actual concept of going up and down. In Granada, we needed to go up and down 62 steps multiple times a day to reach our apartment. Here in Sotogrande, we have an elevator or a lift or an ascensor as they say in Spain. Don’t confuse European elevators with those you’ve experienced in the United States. They may be built by Otis, but they are all like “mini-Otis” elevators.
Over the past two years, our elevator has broken down four times. Now, we are pretty able bodied, but our dog Pi is not. We live on the third floor, and he absolutely relies on the elevator with his weakening hips, blindness, and 200 pounds to carry. A broken elevator is absolutely brutal. Add to the fact that his nobility makes the idea of going to the bathroom in the apartment or even outside on our patio virtually unthinkable for him and we have a serious situation on our hands. He just stands at the door and barks.
So Karen, the real dog whisperer in our family and Pi’s alpha, figured out a safe, but painstaking way, to help him down the stairs. She talks him through it, holds him by the collar, and is able to make him feel as safe as possible. He survived three of these adventurous experiences last year, and we hoped he would never have to go through that again. Furthermore, his hips are worsening and the idea didn’t even seem feasible now.
However, earlier this year, Jackson was taking the elevator down to the gym when 5 adults, a small child, and a dog asked to get on the elevator. Jackson was skeptical but obliged. Just moments later they felt the elevator drop, jolt, and get stuck between floors. Everyone in the elevator spoke either Spanish or English, but Jackson was the only person who was fluent in both languages. He used the phone to call the building office and they said they would call a technician to come and rescue them.
Since their cell phones didn’t work in the elevator, Karen and I had no idea of what had occurred. And we returned home from the Padel Tennis Club only to find the elevator not working and hear voices coming from the elevator shaft. Hearing Jackson right away, we called out to him and he explained the situation. We then waited on the bottom floor until the technician arrived and freed them from their tiny confines. Jackson emerged shirtless, sweating profusely, but still the bilingual hero amidst an uncomfortable, stressful situation. He is very calm under pressure, but he was clearly relieved to be out of that elevator.
The technician then informed us that he would need to return in the morning with all his tools to fix the elevator. We let him know of the situation with our dog, and then we just hoped and prayed Pi would somehow make it through the night. It was not to be.
We were awoken at 2:30 am to Pi’s cries at the door. Thinking I might be able to trick him, I put on the leash and then walked Pi to the corner of our patio in hopes that he would go to the bathroom. But he was having none of it, and was wholly unconvinced by my efforts. Thus began the process of getting Pi downstairs. Karen led the way, and we somehow reached the bottom floor where Pi went to the bathroom. Of course, we realized that going up was an impossibility, and Pi slept in the backseat of the car in our garage for the next 6 hours.
The highs and lows. The ups and downs. Elation. Panic. Frustration. Innovation. Integration. And just like that the sun rose. The boys were off to school. Pi emerged from the car and we sat by the water’s edge, in the sun and wind, emerging from a dark night to enjoy another morning in España…together.