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“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
Attributed to Will Rogers…but embraced by me.
I’m curious about people who don’t love dogs, I think they may have suffered either an act of nature (A gene got mugged and mutated coming down the DNA spiral staircase) or, an act of nurture, (an unfortunate early event that left them psychologically scarred for life.) If the former, I’m sorry, if the latter, get over it.
I recall early stressful encounters of my own with a pooch. I guess I was about eight or so and I’d have to walk to St. Clement’s School past a house where there’d often be a white boxer loose. Looking back, to me he was the “Great White Gronc” of 147th St. But his name was more likely, “Smoochie”, “Cutie Pie” or some such thing.
He’d approach to sniff and stare, his “deadly” eyes almost at the level of my own. I’d do as my mom said, “Keep walking, Lee, and show no fear.” Yeah, right. My parents, as most folks back then, did not pamper their kids. If you got through childhood, you made the cut, if not…next?
Sometimes the pooch would try to put his front paws around my waist in an attempt to snuggle my leg. Yes, I’d keep walking, “showing no fear,” as directed but with a face as ashen as the hue of the boxer’s coat. I guessed he was trying to dance with me, what else could he have had in mind?
Now, as an adult, you don’t really know your neighborhood unless you walk it and most adults don’t walk it today unless they have a dog. Sure walks on the Long Beach boardwalk and sunny sands are fantastic but a walk through your neighborhood allows you to see a lot of stuff that you drive by daily and never take in.
But when I walk Bailey, I see her awareness of the NOW right in front of her black and white snout. Her nose is laser-focused to the grass around the fire hydrant. I know she’s not thinking about the next moment, just the one at the end of her nose. Then she moves on to the next. One can learn from this guru. Nothing else exists. The only time that exists ever…is NOW.
Bailey sees any perpendicular object as a Snoutbook page and sniffs out the latest posts from the front, well…maybe a bit further back. On rainy days or post-rain walks there’s a dearth of news and our walk is shorter. But when we haven’t had rain in a while she lingers at the un-rinsed terrain, stopping at a recent post to absorb every damp syllable.
Most times we walk our regular route and she happily moves along from one well known scent to another, “Oh, Norman was here today, had beef last night,” or “Henry had his heart pill,” etc. She’ll likely Respond-to-All in a “post-it-note” herself.
Whether we walk Bailey in New York City or Long Beach…we are her water bearers. We walk from twenty to forty minutes but sometimes as much as an hour and twenty. Last week we walked, no migrated really, a full two hours and she wasn’t even tired. I clocked it with my car the next day and it was just under four miles.
And when we walk to distant “pastures”, (yeah she eats grass but only the wild, untended, un-chemicaled fare), she comes upon unfamiliar scents. This new scent has to be data entered and categorized into her system and we can stand and wait and wait and wait while she experiences some “strange.”
But it is give-and-take. When I have my camera out and I’m focused on a macro shot of an old rusty chain or padlock, she has to tug me along. But when she’s macro-focused on the scent of a dog named, Rusty, I tug her, so it all works out.
It’s not just your pooch that’s the experience in a dog walk, it’s the other dogs too that you see along the way. And the walk is, for the most part, a quiet experience, until she sees those other dogs. Then she can become quite barkative. She yaps and growls at about 8 out of 10 pooches that cross our path.
Sounds like, “Get off my street,” or, “I’ll kick your ass.” Then as we walk on, there’s a slow decent in decibels of, Grrrr, Grr, of “Why I oughta.”
An iconic pooch-name of the ages was, “Fido” for the Latin Fidus, for loyalty of course. We feel at times we should have named Bailey,“Fighto” for, well you get it. There’s a nice story behind “Fido” if you have the time and if you really love dogs, you just might find it worth while.*
But when the walk is quiet it includes peaceful exposure to all the gardens and walkways and proudly pruned trees and shrubs that line your trek. It enhances the moment.
The awareness I see in Bailey often transfers to me. Sometimes I just watch her eat grass, I’m not thinking about the photo I took yesterday or tomorrow’s appointment. I’m just absorbed in watching her licking and chewing of long green grass right in front of her.
When the sun is strong I try to shelter Bailey as much as I can with my shadow. She doesn’t realize that what I’m doing is causing the coolness. But I think that’s the coolest kind of care to give any being, the kind that needs no recognition.
Bailey gives it to both Cheryl and I with every wag of her tail. She’s not doing it for a return, she’s doing it because she just needs to express it. No worries about, interpretations or “labels” or “power” or “control.”
The day will come when the shadows of neither I nor Cheryl nor Bailey will play across the long green grass before us. But today they do. Today all of our shadows walk together. And today, under the sun, is the only time that really exists.
People smile at you more often when you walk with a pooch. There are often happy words in the air as well. When I pass a lady who utters, “So, cute,” I often respond, “Thank you, my dog’s not too bad either.” A real knee slapper, huh? ”Guaranteed to bring out a smiley face on the “Girls in their Summer Dresses.”
Once, Cheryl was waiting for a school bus to pass so she could cross the street but the driver stopped in front of her, not at a light nor a stop sign, opened the door and said, “He’s cute, but he’s still not getting on without a pass.”
Yes, I want to go to dog Heaven. I suspect there won’t be a lack of anything…
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