Wisdom of Dog

Ah, ha! as we say in the poetry game. Finally a connection. I read the following yesterday, but it was not until this morning that the key turned in the lock.

This morning Emily sits in her garden with her dog. #500, c. 1862

Within my Garden, rides a Bird
Upon a single Wheel —
Whose spokes a dizzy Music make
As ’twere a travelling Mill —

He never stops, but slackens
Above the Ripest Rose —
Partakes without alighting
And praises as he goes,

Till every spice is tasted —
And then his Fairy Gig
Reels in remoter atmospheres —
And I rejoin my Dog,

And He and I, perplex us
If positive, ’twere we —
Or bore the Garden in the Brain
This Curiosity —

But He, the best Logician,
Refers my clumsy eye —
To just vibrating Blossoms!
An Exquisite Reply!

She watches a bird go from flower to flower. The bird partakes without alighting. This sounds like a hummingbird. Em ponders the miracle of this movement. Tries to find a nook for this Curiosity in her Brain. Nope, won’t fit.

Naturally she consults her dog in this matter. How to absorb the wonderment of this ephemeral genius, the bird among the flowers? Her wise counselor, “He the best Logician” directs her attention to the flowers themselves, nicely pollinated, trembling with the pleasure of their recent visitation by the bird. Her dog says: Look! The flowers are happy. The bird is happy. Life is flourishing. The garden is great! Is there anything else you need to know, Emily? Really?

So my contribution to the story of unfolding dog wisdom is the following: I perpetrated a rare infraction this morning. I overslept. Normally Lance wakes me at first light to go outside. Sometimes, if I don’t feel like getting out of bed that early, I say, “I’m not quite ready, Lance. Give me five more minutes.” Lance has an extraordinary vocabulary (he’s a Gemini) and can understand complex sentences, such as: “Wait for me at the corner.” “Please put that back where you found it.” “No, I’m sorry, you should have thought of that earlier.” And others.

On this morning, five minutes turned into an hour and a half. This would not ordinarily be catastrophic. Lance can wait that long for me to take him out. It’s happened before. He goes back to his bed and holds still, waiting and watching for any movement in my bed. If I lift my head, he bolts to the side of the bed, props his chin on the mattress and breathes waves of halitosis into my face, which quickly brings me to my feet and off we go for our morning walk.

What’s new about this morning is that for the past ten days we have had a house guest staying with us. Leo is a strawberry blond sheltie and possibly chow mix. Leo is Lance’s dearest friend. When they have sleep-overs there is very little sleep because they rough house constantly. It is an endless world wide wrestling bout in my house when Leo comes to stay. They make a single, two-toned ball of fur, dark brown on one half (Lance) and red-gold froth (Leo) on the other half. This ball of fur rolls from one room the next. They separate only long enough to eat and to poop. Then they’re right back at it. In rare moments of calm, they lie exhausted on the carpet, while Leo methodically washes the inside of Lance’s ears. Lance cocks his head to one side, as if listening to a secret message, while Leo lavishes his tongue over Lance’s face and both ears, making his entire head wet with spit. It’s totally homoerotic and keeps them nice and busy. My sweet boyfriends.

On this morning, the boys commenced their rough play when I told them to leave me alone for five minutes. I should have seen this coming but I didn’t because I was still half-asleep, caught in my own dream, and lulled into a sense of security that my dog in his adulthood of eight years has never done anything bad in the house. Ever. Lance and Leo went rolling around the house, each with their own first-thing-in-the-morning full bladder. And then . . . and then . . . through the mists of my half-conscious state, I heard a gentle sound. I sat up and looked out the window where the sun shone and the sky was clear. “Is it raining?” I said out loud to no one. Because if it was raining, why then . . . it would have to be raining inside my house! Argghhhh!

I bolted from the bed and followed the sound to its source. There I found Lance, posed in a graceful arabesque on the rug in my office, delivering a copious stream of urine. He smiled at me, as if to say: “Hey, you’re up.”

Oh, the shock. The stink. In eight years of cohabitation with Lance (once past puppyhood) he had never soiled the inside of my home. This pee puddle had resulted from a perfect storm of my inattention combined with the over-stimulating activity with Leo. First-thing-in-the-morning wrestling is like sending an engraved invitation to a dog’s bladder that says: “Please express yourself!” If Lance had kept still in his own bed, this would not have happened.

One might view the pee incident as punishment for my selfishness. I am Bad Mother. I did not take him out when he asked. Other dog people might fly into a rage. Neither of those views would be consistent with the tone of Lance’s gesture. After he emptied his bladder on my rug, he came to me with a broad smile stretching across his face and his tail wagging. He could not have been more joyful or oddly more proud of himself. No hard feelings. No guilt or shame. His manner was one of simple acceptance of himself and his needs. How could I be angry at someone so rich in wisdom and self-love? The qualities I lack. I kissed him and apologized for ignoring him. He forgave me and went right back to jumping Leo. I hustled them both out the door before we had another great learning experience.

The message for me, if any, is this: Respond when called! Don’t go back to sleep.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are moving back and forth across the threshold
Where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

(Thank you Rumi and Coleman Barks.)

Also that rug needed cleaning anyway. Really. Lance did me a big favor.

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