Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Going to the dogs


photo of Si-Si playing with soap bubbles
© harrington
photo of Si-Si checking out soap bubbles
© harrington
One of the nice things about children and dogs is their ability to keep people from getting too wrapped up in themselves. Ignoring, or trying to ignore, a 2 AM feeding for a screaming infant rarely works well. Ignoring your dog when s/he tells you that "I need to go out RIGHT NOW" is another losing strategy. The other night, my daughter decided to play with blowing soap bubbles. Si-Si the blond bomb rescue Labrador had never seen anything quite like them (left). She soon discovered if you bite them they burst; if you chase them they burst. They're lots of fun (right). It's been awhile since I've laughed like that. For a variety of reasons, I needed that laughter. Si-Si (and Franco, my wife's border collie cross rescue dog, and Ruark, our daughter's rescue dog import [still trying to figure out breeds] from North Carolina) continue to test my patience and training skills. They're dogs and they enjoy being dogs, even if that gets them yelled at from time to time. They seem firmly committed to the idea that a dog's first job is to be him (her) self and second job is to have fun. We humans seem to often to forget that, basically, we're also animals and our first job is to be ourselves. The other night, I watched a George Carlin (you remember the Hippy-Dippy Weatherman?) video on you tube on his "Philosophy for Old Age." That, and some other things I've been reading and watching recently, make me wonder how it is that we came to take ourselves too seriously and to underrate the problems we create for ourselves, others like us, other species, and the world we all depend on. Have we come to see hubris as a solution rather than a distraction? I haven't yet met a dog that suffered from hubris. That's another reason just about every house should have at least one. Gene Hill has covered it better than I. If a dog, preferably your dog, isn't part of your life, you're missing more than hairs on the rug and holes in the yard. Try the poem below as a clincher. Humans and dogs are part of nature and the more we remember that, the better off all three of us will be.

If Feeling Isn't In It

You can take it away, as far as I'm concerned—I'd rather spend the afternoon with a nice dog. I'm not kidding. Dogs have what a lot of poems lack: excitements and responses, a sense of play the ability to impart warmth, elation . . . .
                                                                            Howard Moss
Dogs will also lick your face if you let them.
Their bodies will shiver with happiness.
A simple walk in the park is just about
the height of contentment for them, followed
by a bowl of food, a bowl of water,
a place to curl up and sleep. Someone
to scratch them where they can't reach
and smooth their foreheads and talk to them.
Dogs also have a natural dislike of mailmen
and other bringers of bad news and will
bite them on your behalf. Dogs can smell
fear and also love with perfect accuracy.
There is no use pretending with them.
Nor do they pretend. If a dog is happy
or sad or nervous or bored or ashamed
or sunk in contemplation, everybody knows it.
They make no secret of themselves.
You can even tell what they're dreaming about
by the way their legs jerk and try to run
on the slippery ground of sleep.
Nor are they given to pretentious self-importance.
They don't try to impress you with how serious
or sensitive they are. They just feel everything
full blast. Everything is off the charts
with them. More than once I've seen a dog
waiting for its owner outside a café
practically implode with worry. “Oh, God,
what if she doesn't come back this time?
What will I do? Who will take care of me?
I loved her so much and now she's gone
and I'm tied to a post surrounded by people
who don't look or smell or sound like her at all.”
And when she does come, what a flurry
of commotion, what a chorus of yelping
and cooing and leaps straight up into the air!
It's almost unbearable, this sudden
fullness after such total loss, to see
the world made whole again by a hand
on the shoulder and a voice like no other.
Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.