TALKING WITH MS. COMPASSION

Aussie is in deep conversation with Kwan Yin, the essence of compassion. Stanley did that before her, and before him Bubale the Pit Bull. It’s a canine tradition in the Glassman-Marko household. And after Aussie, I wonder, who will talk to Kwan-Yin?

We witness dogs’ lives. We’re there when they come to our home, young and impressionable, and we’re there when they die. Dogs also witness our lives. I break down my life into dog eras. The Woody era was the wandering era, when I lived near Woodstock, then back down to New York, then New Mexico, and California. He died 12 days before our return East. Stanley and Bubale came to us when we’d finally said goodbye to transient living, to temporary (beautiful) quarters or communal arrangements, and settled down in our own home. We left home a lot, but on account of those two dogs we always came back.

Aussie came here a few years after Bernie’s stroke and has been lobbying for a canine companion from the first; in fact, I bet she’s talking to Kwan Yin precisely about that, begging Ms. Compassion for a four-legged friend. But I hesitate, because I’m not clear what road we’re on. I see the day-to-day, but not necessarily the larger picture.

It reminds me of Bernie, who has been walking for quite a while without being able to feel the ground under his right foot. From the get-go I’ve wondered how a person can do that. Don’t you absolutely have to feel something solid under your feet, the thing that resists even as it holds you? Edward Taub, the neuroplasticity pioneer, had said no, you could walk without that, and Bernie has proved him right.

Lately, in order to build resilience, he is going up and down the stairs a few times a day one after the other. I watch him as he tackles those carpeted stairs and wonder how one does that without feeling ground. There’s nothing leisurely here, it’s walking with strength and precision, conscious of the edges, feeling only one bannister with the left hand, a stair only under his left foot.

Our day-to-day life is so much more about dots than filled-in forms. Aussie’s great dot is her desire for a canine friend, and maybe that one dot is all that matters and I should bring another dog home. Stop worrying about where you’re going and what will happen, pay attention to the dot. Everything else, as the great Jewish sage Hillel said, is commentary.