July 16, 2019

“Ðon’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.”

-Thomas J. Watson


I’m sitting on the toilet, doing what I came to do. Waldo is laying quietly at my feet. I let him in the bathroom with me because otherwise, he scratches at the door. He’s lost the puppy-urge to sniff my butt and lick the toilet (with some help from me) and he seems comfortable enough. Then, he looks up at me and talks.

Now Waldo is not really a verbal dog. He sometimes whines very softly when he needs my attention and he sometimes barks when he’s on the patio and sees something very interesting he can’t get to. Other than that, he’s quiet. He sleeps through the night without a whimper, until it’s time to get up, he jumps at my chair when he wants to go out, and he scratches at the door if he is ignored (interpret this as an effort, seldom, if ever, successful). But, for a dog, he is pretty nonverbal.

What he does in the bathroom is verbalize a series of sounds that would be words, I’m sure of it, if he had the anatomical equipment that would allow it. But he doesn’t. It isn’t soft or high-pitched like a whine and it’s not loud and excited like a bark. It is conversational and varied like he is saying something he wants me to understand.

Now, I don’t have to be Dr. Doolittle to understand what he’s saying. It’s not going to be obtuse philosophy, complicated mathematics, or a skewed view on current politics. I’m pretty sure it’s some variation on the theme of, “I gotta go, I gotta go, I gotta go,” or, “I wanna walk, I wanna walk, I wanna walk,” or “Let’s play, let’s play, let’s play,” or even, “I’m bored, I’m bored, I’m bored.” Whatever it is he’s trying to tell me, I am quite sure it can be adequately addressed by going for a walk. And I really, really, really like that he is trying to talk to me. He’s exploring the boundaries, trying to find out what’s possible.

I finish my business, put myself together, grab the leash and water bottles, and head for the door. Waldo runs around me in excited expectation until I can, finally, grab his collar and connect his tether, and we’re off. Today’s the day we go for our long walk down the rail-trail.

It’s warm, without being hot, cloudy without the threat of rain and there is only a soft wisp of a zephyr. It’s late morning and the birds are still chattering in their high-pitched whistles, bugs are buzzing around without being annoying, and the leaves in the trees rattle out their constant and calming babble. On both sides of the trail, we’re swathed in a refreshing blanket of green that I never experienced during the years I lived out west (the green makes me feel comforted, somehow, perhaps due to some prehistoric ancestral memory buried deep in my RNA). I pause, stop thinking about all this, and just soak it all in. I can hear my soul go aaah.

Waldo is doing his Waldo thing, running from one side of the trail to the other, checking out everything that’s there. His senses are heightened, his nose to the ground, ears perked up and moving like radar dishes, eyes moving this way and that and even, on disgusting occasion, tongue lapping out to taste what he just saw, heard or smelled (I wonder at why he doesn’t suffer from continual diarrhea, but I am eternally grateful that he doesn’t). Yep, this is what he wanted when he talked to me. I resist the urge to tell him this is the same trail we were on two days ago, two days before that, two days before that and so on ad infinitum (or so it seems). He wouldn’t agree with me anyway, even if he could understand what I was trying to tell him. And you know what, he’s right. You don’t have to be Heraclitus to realize you can’t walk the same trail twice.

Waldo has given me this moment. Without him, I wouldn’t be here, experiencing the depths of Now in the embracing arms of Mother Nature. I’d be sitting in my chair, doing something immobile and relatively inane.

Thank you, Waldo. Let’s talk again.

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