Photo by Leeann Warner

It’s so great to see you. Did you bring back any food from California?

I did not, Stan.

But you’re such a terrific hunter! Look at all the food you hunt down each weekend! I love being in the kitchen and sniffing it when you bring it in, though I don’t know why you bother putting it in those bags.

That’s what I love about you, Stanley, you’re such a dog!

Of course I’m a dog.

I mean, your feelings are right out there. You can’t hide them. Even with the cataracts covering so much of your eyes I can see the sparkle when I come back from the store or when it’s time to go for a walk. When you go to Leeann you’re grinning in the back seat of the car as soon as we make that turn, and you wave your tail so gaily when she comes to get you! When I came home yesterday from California you whimpered and nuzzled me. Things are right out there with you, Stanley, there’s no hiding anything.

Why should I hide?

Humans do, Stanley. We hide our feelings, not just from others but from ourselves.

How do you hide your own feelings?

By not experiencing them, not going fully into the sensations, Stanley. When we’re babies we feel things strongly, but as we grow up many of us submerge things.

You mean you go swimming?

No, Stan, we learn that it’s better not to feel certain feelings. Say you want to play with someone and there’s no one to play with. Say you want to cuddle with someone only there’s no one to cuddle back, in fact they even make fun of you for wanting to cuddle. After this happens a bunch of times, you don’t want to play and you don’t want to cuddle.

That’s terrible.

In fact, Stanley, that’s what happened to you when we first got you. You didn’t play and you didn’t cuddle. I’d pet you and talk sweetly to you, and you’d go sit by the glass door in back and look out for people or animals.

That’s because I was a guard dog. I’m retired now, so I can play and cuddle.

The point is, Stanley, when humans have a hard life and they’re just trying to get by, just trying in their own way to survive, they forget to feel. In fact, half the time they don’t know what they’re feeling because they’re rushing around so much. We learn to pretend, we learn not to care. Stanley, where are you going?

I’m running downstairs. Rae is sautéing chicken, can’t you smell it? I’m so HAPPY!

It’s only chicken, Stanley, what’s the big deal? And you just ate.

I’m not hungry, I’m HAPPY! I’m so SO HAPPY!

Tail wagging, he scrambles down the stairs to the kitchen so fast his legs collapse under him and he slides down the bottom four steps.

And what do I do? I return to Barking to the Choir, the terrific book by Fr. Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries for gang members ready to give up gang life, and look again at a line he quotes from one of his homies: We got authenticity beaten out of us.