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Dog brings The Wild inside
#80 - But I prefer the dead birds not to come in with him
“But especially he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnights, listening to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the forest, reading signs and sounds as a man may read a book, and seeking for the mysterious something that called—called, waking or sleeping, at all times, for him to come.”
A wet tongue slathers my face, and suddenly I am awake. Flickering my sleep-crusted eyes, I draw a long deep breath, opening them to meet his.
"Good morning, Juice. You're one efficient alarm clock, bud."
He wiggles and bucks like a bronco, tail in a flurry, and flies out the back door as soon as I pop it.
It’s early, and I like to let my eyes adjust naturally, so I draw a knife to prep his breakfast meat under the dusky light of the moon, and moments later he's rattling the back door, wanting the food he can smell from outside.
A voracious eater, just as his predecessor was, I feed the boy from a slow dispenser so he doesn't actually inhale the food.
But he figured out how to wobble that thing as efficiently as possible, and when I watch my smart boy working on his meal, he shows me what focus looks like.
A determined focus, like a flame burning a log to ash, impeneterable by text messages, or sneaky thoughts.
Grabbing his treat bag, I cut small cubes of his favorite road snacks, stuffing it to the top. And clicking it to my hip, we hit the streets on our morning walk.
His storming eyes dart from squirrel to hare as the neighborhood critters scatter. Juice is coming, rings their warning down the alley.
We use the opportunity to work on his recall skills while he's stimulated. And as long as there is distance between him and whatever he’s triggered by, we make progress, burning through a second breakfast of treats as we walk.
As we wander, he checks in often, briefly locking eyes with mine, but he acts like a force with its own rules, storming forward and then suddenly jerking to a stop to smell the flowers only a moment later.
I feel we are taking two different walks together, as I study where his awareness flows across the evolving landscape. So, I bend down to smell the roses with him, instantly hearing Nana cooing soft lullabies in my heart.
He wants to greet every dog, and every person we see, and this gives us opportunities to practice patience with each other. I must allow him to tend to his duties, while still keeping us on track.
On the way back, as we approach the front of our house, a small boy is riding a scooter to school, and drags a foot to stop.
"Can I please, please, please pet your dog?" he stammers, winded and excited.
And his eyes light up when I reply, "Of course, young man!"
Juice flops right over on his back, wiggling all around with his freakishly long tongue draped from his smiling mouth, and the boy squirms and cackles as they share a few special moments of play time.
Content with his scritches, the boy rises, and we say goodbye, wishing him a good day as he scoots off towards school.
“Nice job, buddy. You just made that kid’s day,” I tell the dog as he grins and shakes his ears flat.
Cutting across our front lawn, I release Juice from his lead as we enter our back yard, and immediately he springs to the far corner to investigate something.
Bobbing his head up and down in a quick, rhythmic pattern, I immediately sense he's got an animal in his mouth.
"Juice, leave it!" I yell from across the yard.
But I'm too late.
The Wild already came out of him, and there's no hope for recall at this point. The best I can do now is to grab whatever he has.
Approaching, I see he's lightly jawing on the neck of a baby bird, as if it were a new stuffed toy. The bird must have fallen from a nest in the walnut tree above.
Tossing the bird in the air, he watches it hit the grass with a fang-toothed grin. He's playing with it, seemingly unaware he's ending its life.
I remove the bird, and drop my spade across its neck in the front yard, with a quiet blessing.
“Rest easy young one, your suffering is over. May your next adventure be beautiful. You are free.”
All while Juice cocks his head and stares intensely from behind the fence, curious why I took his new plaything away.
But how could he possibly understand what just happened like I do?
Jumping up and down to greet me, beaming love as I step through the gate, he’s the softest killer I’ve ever met, with innocence written in his eyes.
I do not judge what he just did, or what I had to do after. But I sit as a witness of myself in the grass as the young dog returns to his prowl, searching for another animated toy.
I see how our relationship is multidimensional. How we sleep together in the same bed, yet exist in two different worlds at the same time.
He is a descendent of Wolf, with more of The Wild left in him than me. And he lives in Dog World, a place of increased sensory stimulation, where instinctual patterns are flawlessly executed without question.
Yet our shared needs for love, food, water, and shelter are Universal. And though he’s never uttered a word to me, I always know what he’s saying.
We learn through repetition, together. He studies my behavior and I study his, both adapting accordingly.
And he brings The Wild into bed with us each night, so I don’t forget where I came from.
Thank you, Dog. For being you.