I tell you, this dog has saved my life.
Aussie, I mean.
Day after day, from sheer habit I get into my head, into those glum, narrow, gray confines of a boring old self I’ve known for some 69 years. Same old voices, same old lazy moaning and groaning. You look around and find yourself in fog, you know what’s next in the day, and what’s next after that, and after that, but you don’t really know anything.
Then Aussie brushes by your leg and looks up, and the aliveness of those eyes! The shine of those black pupils, the light inside the dark!.
For what reason? What’s the inspiration or ambition that causes them to practically glitter? Not world peace or a Nobel Prize. Maybe a reminder of breakfast, or of a walk or car ride. So ordinary, so routine, so alive!
And you know that inside that black and brown canine form, descended of wolves, nothing is lived by halves or quarters. Joy precedes every meal, Christmas every walk.
She doesn’t know about fragmentation, about being here but not really. Her eyes don’t go up towards her forehead when she talks, a sure sign she’s back up there. In fact, she doesn’t know how not to pay attention, how not to be aware.
Each time she brushes my leg or presses her head against me, whining volubly, I wonder: Is it time to feed them? Didn’t we go for a walk? And then I look down and see the brightness of those eyes: Come on! Meet me! Talk to me! Stroke me! Laugh with me!
Not with Aussie, with life.
How do you do this, I ask her. I lock you up, put you behind the fence, tell you where to go, where to sleep, what to eat, put you on leash. I bound and fetter you, so how are you so alive? Why, in so many of these moments, am I the one who is asleep?
Elizabeth Bishop wrote a poem, a lullaby, just for me:
Sleep on and on,
war’s over soon.
Drop the silly, harmless toy,
Pick up the moon.”