bruce understands some words, and some expectations, sometimes. he barks when i carry my bike the dozen or so steps to his porch; the barks quell when he hears a key slip into the lock. 'place,' i say, as he starts to nose toward me. he turns and sits in his bed, just out of reach of the door. 'stay, bruce.'

i've taught him over the half dozen meetings we've had that it's not fun if he jumps on me immediately on greeting. he sits quietly in front of me, though he's twitching with the effort of containing his enthusiasm. 'good. gooood, bruce.' once he receives a pat on the head, he bounds away, taking a lap around the living room. we've completed the meeting, so he jumps on me. i turn and sidestep, and he crashes to the floor behind me. he's learning, here, that jumping on me after we've already met is also not fun. next time, maybe he'll accept a second compliment before jumping on me again. how high can a dog count?

when i walk with a dog, an entire channel of thought drops out of my head. i know that for the dog to behave its best, my head must stay quiet; there are too many distractions already, smells and sounds and threats. bruce doesn't need to feel my tension when i anticipate what the dog three blocks down might say to us. bruce doesn't need to second-guess my hesitation for dashing across the street on a yellow light. bruce doesn't need me to look down whenever his head whips aside to catch a scent.

bruce needs me to show him how we carefully, quietly, calmly walk to campus. i can do that. i can't not do that.

my mind is never as quiet as it is when i'm holding one end of a leash and the other end is attached to a dog. i fantasize about having a dog of my own, one i can teach to be a good dog in the world, one that will follow me and trust me and respond to me; i wonder what the long term effects of such a quiet brain might have on me.

22 January 2018 20:52

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