Now I may just get myself in trouble here- with the Law, with my fellow citizens- but I will just come out and say it: I prefer my dogs off-leash.
I walk my dog- wait, did you hear that? My dog can walk herself, thank you very much! I walk with my dog several times a day, and, unless we are near a street (and we try not to be) or approach an unfriendly dog, she walks free- with me. I get the greatest pleasure being out with her, whether it is on the beach, in the dunes, or the woods- just out in the world, with our respective perspectives, she and I.
I used to talk to her quite a bit- I am a talker, she is not- but it gradually occurred to me that I was intruding on her experience, breaking the spell, so to speak. Because when my dog is walking free she is in two worlds: she is at once my pet and a bit of a wild creature, on her own. She quite deftly manages this balance, keeping her eye on me all the while she is pursuing her own doggy interests.
That is the beauty of a dog or a cat- they retain something of their wild nature. I say this to you out there who paint your dog’s toenails, dress her up in booties and skirts, spend more on her grooming than I do on my own-fine, go ahead- but you still end up with a dog.
Living with an animal enlarges your life. You think about how they are taking things in, how they are being affected by this stimulus or that, what appeals to them and what turns them off. We need to be reminded that our human approach is not a universal, and not even the most sensible sometimes. I suppose a potted plant could also be expansive in this same way, but ultimately we have too little in common. If you looked around my house you would see that it is the scene of rampant plant abuse. I am not proud of this fact; neither can I deny it. My garden suffers as well. In my life I have kept iguanas and turtles, snakes and birds, fish and rats. I had an American Eel that would take food from my fingers. But in the end, it is our fellow-travelers- dogs and cats- those species that have been with us for thousands of years- that give us the most return in this regard.
My dog’s world is most different from mine, in the most elemental of our senses- smell. Dogs have something like 400 times the number of olfactory cells than we do. Dogs encounter a palette of odor that we walk right by. They can read not only the scent of something but its timeline as well. By now my dog must realize that I am blind to this aspect of her world, and, if possible, she must pity me for it. No-more likely she just accepts this limitation of mine, as all animals have a talent for resignation, for acceptance, that is admirable.
We amble on, in our shared experience of this raw cold day, but finally, it is time to head for home. In the hierarchy of things, we two beings both place great emphasis on just two: comfort and food.
Time for lunch.