I’m not sure why we decided to start putting the dog on the kitchen counter, but I think it had something to do with wine.
Shirley ponders the nature of reality.
But it turns out that an exercise in bored self-amusement once again reminded me of the superior spiritual life of my pup (or again, maybe this was the wine).
For Shirley, I think being hoisted up to the counter is like being one of Plato’s newly unshackled cave-dwellers; she’s suddenly faced with the origins of the reality she’s always assumed existed ad infinitum (by this I mean the crumb-laden floor, and the realization that there are cookie jars and bags of flour that create these crumbs).
Watching her sniff the surface and examine this new territory with a bold curiosity–not fear–I felt moved. And because I harbor a strangely deep admiration for my dog, I started to think, as I often do, how can I be more like her?
Shirley is an adaptive creature who knows when to let her guard down. She enters new experiences with a strange bow-legged hesitation, skittering backwards and forwards like a spider, and when her gut gives her the all-clear sign, she relaxes into the present like it’s the only thing that has ever existed. She lets go of grudges–when I step on her foot during our morning walk, she squawks and forgives me. In fact, she’s already forgotten about it five paces later.
Me, on the other hand–it’s like I’ve got molasses goop all over my heart and my hands, and this goop connects me to all the times that anyone has hurt me and loved me and all the places I’ve ever been. And when I step on my dog’s foot and hear her mousey little squeak, let’s just say I don’t immediately rush into self-forgiveness mode.
When we moved into our new house this month, I felt waves of what the internet tells me is very typical transitional anxiety: trouble sleeping, little appetite, a gnawing fear that the spontaneity and spice of life was gone and replaced by the red brick of permanence, of settling. Also, where in the heck were my trusted routines? My toilet that never flushed right, the reliable way I made awkward small-talk with my neuroscientist neighbor as we waited for the bus?
Our first night in the new place, Shirley gave the house a good sniffing and then went to bed and slept the transcendent sleep of a worry-free poodle. She accepted the change by creating new routines, like waking up at 6:15 and playing with her tennis ball instead of sleeping all day.
We even took her back to the old apartment after a week to see if she harbored any old nostalgia for the place, but she took a lap and came back into the living room, like Guys? I am so over this place already.
To which I was like, You, dog, are so unbelievably cool, I can’t even believe you’re my friend.
(Right now she is sleeping on the couch beside me, the tuft of curly hair on her head so overgrown that I can see it vibrating slightly in time with her tiny heartbeat.)
In the end, yeah, I’m probably anthropomorphizing to a degree. It’s hard not to when this animal communicates so effectively and whose love bears such striking resemblance to the love humans share. And I’m probably also overestimating her adaptivity–the impressive splash of diarrhea I found in the backyard snow serves as evidence that Shirley’s body, too, felt the strange groundlessness of transition, at least for an evening.
Or, could have been the wine.