19 January 2011

Dog is...

Buddha Beach Oak Creek
The other day, over the long MLK weekend, we took our kid and the dogs down to Oak Creek at Buddha Beach for a hike and a swim.  Everyone had a blast.  Templeton trail to Buddha Beach is a short but lovely hike, red rocks to riverside.  Midwinter-perfect.

But that evening, a few hours after our return home, we woke our older dog, Shadow, for her dinner.  And she couldn't rise to walk.  Eventually, after some stretching, massaging, and coaxing, 5- or 10-minutes later she was able to get her feet beneath her and wobble outside to her bowl.  The next day, she was just fine... perhaps a little slower than usual, but mostly just fine. But the whole episode, it kinda shocked us.  We'd processed it mentally.  Discussed it openly.  But never really witnessed it: Shadow's getting old.

I've been thinking about this for a while now: our aging dog.  And, as another homage, I submitted two photos of her to Mountain Gazette magazine a while back, for their upcoming annual Dog Photo Contest issue.  And, I'm pleased to say, one of them made it through the first-round of cuts.  That's not to imply that I'm actually going to have a picture I took published in a magazine.  It's only to say that a picture I took actually got through the first round.  Which is cool!  But it is by no means the prize.  I guess, one of these days, they'll let me know if my other picture made the final-cut.  But until then, have a gander at this: the picture (at right) that didn't make it through the first round.  No surprise, I guess.  It's not really a superior photo or anything.  But it's really-and-truly a photo I like, one that I think captures Shadow in her essence: outside, soaking wet, and so black she's almost blue.

I'll wait to reveal the other photo until I hear who made the final cut.

But today I got an intriguing email from the editor of Mountain Gazette... an email he sent to all of us who submitted photos to the magazine for this little contest, which read:
I'm putting together a list of 10-20 reasons why people should have dogs for inclusion in our subscription ad. If you'd like to send in one (and, please, one only) one-sentence reason why people should have dogs (or what dogs bring to our lives, anything along those lines), I'd love to see what our dog photo contributors come up with. Funny, poignant, obvious, not obvious— as long at is relates to dogs in general and necessarily to one specific dog... If nothing comes to mind, fret not.
I thought about it all morning, whenever I had a moment... Why do we love our dogs?  I re-Googled a few old quotes, favorites of mine, about dogs, to find inspiration.  I love Travels With Charley.  It's one of my favorite books of all time.  So much of what Steinbeck had to say about dogs, especially his giant poodle, Charley, rings true to me.  Like:
"A dog is a bond between strangers."
"It is my experience that in some areas Charley is more intelligent than I am, but in others he is abysmally ignorant. He can't read, can't drive a car, and has no grasp of mathematics. But in his own field of endeavor, which he is now practicing, the slow, imperial smelling over and anointing on an area, he has no peer. Of course his horizons are limited, but how wide are mine?"
My favorite dog-quote really has very little to say about dogs.  But it is one borne by many a Bookman's employee and customer; it's on one of their popular T-shirts, a quote by Groucho Marx:
Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."
I like that one because it's kinda funny, and a bit unexpected the first time you read it.  It gets less funny the more you read it.  But still...

As I've said before, I love our old dog, Shadow.  And I'm learning to love our crazy puppy, Rubia, too.  I think most dogs are good dogs.  Better than people sometimes.  I think dogs are a means for us to better understand ourselves. In my case, our first-dog was an important means to help me gain unexpected insight into my capacity to love something, or someone, that I really never expected to love, in a bigger and better way than I ever imagined I could.

I really do think it was this dog-borne epiphany that compelled me to really want to become a dad.  And I'm so glad it did!

So in the end, after a lot of thought, I sent this to the editor today:
"Dog is patient.  Dog is kind.  Dog does not boast.  Dog never fails."
Gotta say: I think I got that one right.


seriouskidding said...

What beautiful sentiment. I could not agree more.

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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey