October 8, 2019

“Animals are the bridge between us and the beauty of all that is natural. They show us what’s missing in our lives, and how to love ourselves more completely and unconditionally. They connect us back to who we are, and to the purpose of why we’re here.”

-Trisha McCagh


Waldo and I are out on a poop and pee walk. These are short, about one half mile, jaunts about the property that we engage in every two hours or so. I think the place used to be some kind of orchard in the past because there are a number of apple and pear trees around. They look, to me, to be older than the apartments and I’m guessing they were there before this became what it is today. There are also oaks, maples and various kinds of conifers as well, so maybe I’m wrong and the fruit trees were planted when they were older. But why would one do that? The fruit trees are scattered about the grounds in no coherent pattern and nobody picks the fruit. It falls to the ground where it eventually rots and makes a mess. It has to be a nuisance for the groundskeepers and no one benefits from them.

Except Waldo. As we walk around the trees, he selects and fills his mouth with at least two fist-sized apples. Or an apple and a pear. And a stick or two. He carries these around, drops them occasionally, then picks them up again. He may drop and leave his burden in mid-walk somewhere, but if he does, he reloads before carrying on very far. Waldo Appleseed, he spreads the beginnings of future trees around the property. When we get back to the building where we live, I have to convince him to drop whatever he’s carrying before we go inside. You know where we live because there is a pile of rotting fruit and broken sticks around the door.

I’m not sure why he does this and I’m not convinced that I need to know. Maybe he feels less insecure when his mouth is full? He does chew on the stuff sometimes, but that doesn’t seem to be the motivation for filling his maw with it. I don’t think it hurts him in any way – although I do sometimes find small bits of sticks in his stool when I pick it up. It’s just curious.

You know, I spend a lot of time trying to understand what motivates him. I think about how I can convince him how to play the way I want him to – fetch instead of keep-away, for example. I think about and repetitively train him to do all the things that I feel are in our best interest – sit, stay, down, come, walk without tugging at the leash and so on. I try to be vigilant as to what interests and pleases him and arrange for him to have that, whatever it is, in his life. I also try to find ways to get him to leave me alone so I can have some me-time. This often requires prolonged negotiation – he is a very self-oriented and insistent animal.

And then there are times when I get down on all fours and we just spontaneously play. We make up the rules as we go and use whatever is at hand. This usually involves some biting on his part (after all, he has no hands), which I try to discourage, and some pawing that ends in claw-scratches on my arms, but otherwise, it’s freeform. After a bit, I pull him toward me and rub his shoulders just where he likes it and pet his head. He leans into me and gives me love nibbles and licks me until some part of my clothes are wet and I am pretty thoroughly slimed. At these times, I know my oxytocin levels are high and his probably are too. But what’s happening is more than that.

I’m convinced that those puppy-cuddling moments are not motivated by some need for surrogate human, or in his case, substitute canine, affection. My feelings are not like those I’ve ever had for a spouse, child or any other person. How could they be? Waldo’s a dog. Still, it’s clearly love that I feel and just as strong and deep — yet different. It has to be. What I share with Waldo is not the same as what I share with people.

And it feels pretty damn good.

Wanna play?

1 comment

Did you ever consider Byron, perhaps you’re the one being trained ?

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