For the Love of Dog

When dog speaks, man heels


| September-October 1999


The dyslexic believes in dog, and so do I. Blessed be we.

My dog, Toby, does a handstand, face deep into his bowl, and eats while balanced on his forepaws. I am astonished. I want to call out to someone, verify what I am seeing. Later, I talk about it, but no one believes me. They don’t say so, of course, but merely smile and look away. Some day, I am almost sure, he will speak, and his first word will be "No," correcting some gauche behavior on my part. At this very moment, as I type, dog sits upon my lap. When he kisses my chin, I will have to stop and take him outside to confer with Max, the neighbor’s Labrador.

For those brief periods during which I did not share my life with a dog—college, the navy, grieving the loss of the last one—I felt like a man who had lost the path.

There is nothing of importance man can teach dog. Dog knows. What we painstakingly practice to attain, dog already has—in spades: He is detached from his ego, he accepts what is, every response he makes is the right one—fear, fight, flight, and forget—and he enjoys a good night’s sleep after all.

Though he may have a Web site, dog is not online. He doesn’t overspend or work too hard or tell outrageous lies. Rain doesn’t stop dog, nor does sun encourage him. Dog has no standard of beauty. Man drips with gold and hides behind a stranger’s name—Tommy Hilfiger, say. Dog wears a simple collar. Dog doesn’t know when man is naked, doesn’t care. The rarest and most exotic of dogs is just another mutt to the dogs he encounters in walking meditation.

Perhaps the most enlightened aspect: For dog the journey is the destination. When dog jumps into the car, he doesn’t know or care if he is going to Charlie’s house or Chicago, to the park or Panama. He need not know how long he will be gone or what he should pack. How I aspire to be like dog! How sure I am that I will fail!