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Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

“Be that way!”

This morning i spent an hour and a half on the phone with my good friend and pet sitting mentor Lauren, talking about the biz.  Lauren is so bright and creative and generous with her thoughts and ideas that by the time i got off the phone my head was swimming – awash with wonderful, interesting thoughts.  And my body was completely jangly and overstimulated.  I needed a walk.

When i am home for the day or for most of the day, Buddy and i walk up the pretty hill behind our house several times a day.  We both love it.  But sometimes lately, in the middle of a bright, sunny, warm summer day, my Buddy – nine year old dog that he is – prefers to just lay in the shade.  And today i just could not coax him out of one of his fav shady places, behind the bushes on the back side of the house.

i tried all manner of sweet talk, coaxing and upbeat cheerleading.  Nothing.

i was on the verge of punting on the walk and just going back onto my frnt porch to organize the dozens of notes i had scratched out while talking to Lauren.  But then i realized, “I need a walk.  i need, for a few minutes at least, to get out of my head and exercise my body – to help it chill back a little bit.  i need to ground all that energy by feeling my feet on the ground.”

And so i took myself for a walk.

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A friend was telling me the other day that she learns how to live from her dog.  I, as much as anybody, view my dog as a fabulous teacher – but i think that’s only half the story.

I said, “You know, dogs learn a lot about life from us, too.”  She looked puzzled.  “Yeah, dogs are a domesticated animal – that means that a lot of their potential can only be tapped through their relationship with a human.  Your dog learns richer, more satisfying ways to be a dog from her close relationship with you.”

“Wow, I never thought about it that way.”

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Running the dog #2

(See “Running the dog #1” under the Not so fast... tab.)

This week, morning and evening, i have been looking in on and walking Joey.

Joey is an American Eskimo Dog.  His little legs are about as long as my shoe – not really cross-country runner legs.  The first few days that we walked, Joey was happy doing a quick walk (the AKC says “trot”) – which is about as fast as my regular walk.

Maybe today he was feeling the gorgeous summer morning – bright, still a little cool in the shade but warm in the sun – two different climate zones that we would go in and out of.  Whatever it was, I think i was feeling it too.

Joey wanted to go a little faster.  I haven’t been a runner in a lot of years, since my longer legs decided that they didn’t really like running anymore (long before the rest of me – especially my mind and feelings – had decided it was time to hang up the running shoes).  My idea of a good workout these days is walking uphill (easy to find in these Appalachian Mountains – actually, hard to find anything else) at three different speeds – moderate, slow and stopped.

But this morning, picking up the pace a little felt great to me, too.  Now i was doing a fast walk (not a trot, which is harder for me).  Joey looked at me and said, “I can go even faster than this” – and picked up the pace a little more.  At this point, he was flat-out running and i was running too, at something a little this side of flat-out.

At this point, a very cool thing happened: Joey looked at me and i looked at him – and he winked at me.  Oh, OK, not exactly a wink, but i could hear him saying, “Hey, man, look at us – this is cool!”  OK, maybe not exactly “heard” – but kinda did.  You know.  You dog lovers who also hallucinate words emanating from your dogs know exactly what i mean.

When my son Terry was about eight, he and i learned to roller skate together.  My competency on skates progressed just slightly faster than did his, but he still wanted to hold my hand as we skated – thus opening a new window into the concept of false sense of security.  Sweet, i really did like it, but i couldn’t resist the thought, “Sorry kid, but if i go down I’m taking you down with me.”

But one Saturday afternoon at the roller rink, right at the end of the session, Terry started to feel more confident.  They always played a ballad at the end of the session – not exactly a waltz, but sweet and kind of dreamy late 70’s/early 80’s pop.  Maybe it was the relatively lyrical nature of the music, but Terry found his groove and voluntarily dropped my hand.  And he kinda started to fly.

He would focus intently on his skating, even as he was starting to let it flow – then he would look over at me.  Then back to the skating and then back at me.  And he winked at me.  OK, not literally winked – i don’t know that this is a behavior he has ever picked up.  But energetically, something in him winked.  And I could hear that part of him say, “Look at us – isn’t this cool?!”

And it was – very cool.

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My dog loves a summer night.

His flat, black-button nose twitches overtime.  His head swivels from side to side, peering into the darkness.  He smells things that i don’t smell, hears things that i cant hear, sees things that i don’t see.  He is so alive!

I remember a period in my late teens and very early 20’s, when i was so flush with new freedom from the limits of my family and full of my new capacities that a summer nights could be for me a wonderland – spreading in all directions with space and possiblity.

These days i often feel very turned-on to be alive, but summer nights seldom affect me the same way – there is not often the kind of magic that seems to be available to Buddy almost every night.

Once again Buddy points, for me, the way.

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Every night, before i go to bed, i tuck Buddy in: i sit next to him and give him a big dose of love, usually for about 10-15 minutes, sometimes longer (especially if he is tense, traumatized by thunder – or, on a couple of horrible occasions, by having been attacked and terrorized by an aggressive dog – or otherwise seems to need it more than usual).

I started this practice shortly after he came to me, about 15 months ago.  He was, back then, so scared and depressed that i wanted him to feel especially safe and loved before he slept all night.  These days, he doesn’t “need” it as much as he did back in those early, traumatized days – but he still gets so ecstatically happy, and then so wonderfully peaceful, that i continue the practice.  I do it no matter how late i come in or how early i have to get up.  In 15 months, i have only missed a few nights.

Frequently, as Buddy gets very peaceful and relaxed, he will let out a big, loud, deep sigh – a sure sign that he has really let go.  Sometimes he will fall peacefully asleep – and i usually continue to stroke him for a few more minutes, believing that when he is sleeping the love and reassurance goes straight into his unconscious, creating a deep foundation of security and contentment.  Sometimes i sing to him.

Many months ago, i got it that this little ritual is as good for me as it is for Buddy.  i get peaceful, i feel wrapped in love.  You can’t give love without it moving through you first.  Sometimes i picture that Life is stroking, reassuring, loving me the same way that i am giving these things to Buddy.

I think I’ll keep it up.

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A couple of months after i got into the practice of “tucking Buddy in” before i went to bed, i experimented with a new wrinkle.  I thought, why do i always sit up above Buddy?  What might happen if i lay right down with him?  So i tried lying behind him, facing the same way he is lying, and spooning: I cuddle in real tight, like i imagine puppies doing – or dogs that are very tight – and throw my arm over him.

The first couple of weeks i tried this, Buddy just couldn’t believe how wonderful this felt: I imagined his little doggie brain thinking, “It can’t be possible – after all those years of getting just stingy little bits of love – that this is really happening to me.”  One night, he rolled over in my direction, looked deep into my eyes, and then gently placed both of his paws on my chest.  (Now who was melting?)  Another time, he placed one paw on my chest and the other up over my shoulder, like he was giving me a big doggie hug.

These days Buddy doesn’t respond so dramatically to spooning.  I think that it no longer feels to him so unbelievably wonderful. I think that for him, now, it just feels normal.

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Buddy hasn’t always liked Lucy – fact is, she can be irritating as hell.

Lucy is a three year old hound, full of boundless energy – fast as the wind and light on her feet like a ballerina.  But that’s where the similarity to a ballerina ends.  More aware of her own enthusiasm than she is of her environment, she doesn’t know her own speed and athletic power.  She crashes into Buddy and me, sits on us and frequently plays too rough for Buddy, precipitating yelps from him and profanity from me.

Buddy has learned, over the last 15 months, to enjoy rough play with other dogs – but he is essentially more delicate.  He will never step on your toes, much less crash into you.  For the first few months we lived here, he clearly found Lucy a pain in the ass and woud not give her the time of day.

But Buddy loves the company of other dogs and these days (not in earlier days) loves to play doggie wrestling and chasing games.  And, since moving to our new area, for doggie play Lucy is the only game in town.  So, a few months ago he began to soften to her – and now he flat-out loves her.

But Lucy is gone with her family for several days of vacation – and Buddy is like bereft: there’s no zest, no spring in his step, when we go for walks he hardly does more than mope along with me.  When Lucy goes back up the hill with us, the two sniff everything.  They go crashing back into the woods at full throttle: even though Buddy’s nine year old full throttle is nothing like Lucy’s three year old, long-legged, game-chasing hunting dog’s full throttle, he chases gamely after her.

Even on his own, Buddy will happily chase a squirrel any day of the week – even when he is having a bad day, even in the dog days of summer, even when the Lucy thrill is gone, he’ll always chase a squirrel when he sees one.  But Lucy sees them a lot further away than Buddy does, so that’s a lot more squirrels to chase – and from a lot longer distance.

So the last couple of days my old Buddy is acting a lot less like his pup self and more like his old man self.  I, for my part, have been intentionally activating my pup self: cuddling him a lot more enthusiastically and wrestling with him a lot more robustly.

That’s really good for me: after a long day at work, it brings me back alive – I feel some zest, get the spring back in my step.

And I see the light come back in Buddy’s eyes.

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