Septmeber 24, 2019

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.

-Anais Nin


During the eclipse of August 21, 2017, I met with my family in St. Louis, MO. We went to a farmer’s field, a little ways out of town, and waited for the celestial event to happen. There were a couple hundred people there who were milling around in the grass, some socializing, some just wandering. I came upon a man leading a dog on a short leash. The dog walked sedately at heel next to his master and ignored what was going on around him. I recognized the dog to be a border collie and approached the man. Border collies are renowned for their intelligence and I thought that it would be interesting to tap into that and see what kind of relationship could be formed — this chance meeting provided me an opportunity to get some details about what it was like to own one. The man told me that, yes, they are very energetic; yes, they are independent; yes, they are very smart and learn quickly; and yes, he often was not sure who was training whom. The one thing that made the deepest impression on me was, before we parted, he said, “He has been a good friend.” That was something I wanted.

Waldo and I just got back from a poop and pee walk around the property. We do this about every two hours, not just for Waldo’s biological necessities, but also for his peace of mind. He needs to get out and do something fairly often. The two-hour intervals are an unspoken agreement we made to keep us both sane.

Waldo jumps up on the arm of my chair and demands my attention. I know he doesn’t have to relieve himself because we just got back. I give him some shoulder rubs, pets and pats, then tell him, “Off.” He hesitates because he hasn’t gotten what he wants. What he wants is to play ball, tug-of-war or anything else that will entertain him. He eventually gets down, goes a little ways away and lays on the floor, keeping an eye on me. This doesn’t last long and he’s back at it again. I feel his need, but I’ve got to have some me time, so again I refuse, tell him, “Wait,” and he goes off and lays down again. This goes on and on for over an hour and finally it’s close to the two-hour limit between outside trips and I relent and take him out. In the rain. He happily agrees to this compromise and out we go.

In addition to being wet out, it’s dark. I let him go to the end of the leash and he pulls me in the path he wants to follow, which is always the same, unless I redirect him. Even though he’s wearing a Halti, he pulls on the leash uncomfortably. This is something we’re negotiating – I want him to stop pulling and he wants to go. I’ve tried stopping and waiting until he no longer pulls; I’ve tried softly jerking on the leash to let him know I don’t like it; I’ve tried talking to him. Nothing works for very long. Leash etiquette is something we are going to work on with our trainer in the near future. In the meantime, nobody is entirely satisfied. I remind myself that he is still a puppy.

I’ve had a few dogs in my life and known quite a few more. I have loved them all, to various degrees, but there has always been a clear, mutually understood, ranking between us – the hierarchy was understood. This was not something that I demanded, and not every person I know has this happen. It doesn’t mean that the dogs are subservient to me or that they will do everything I tell them to do. Yet, somehow, though they may rebel, it’s clear to both of us that I am alpha to them. With Waldo, it’s different. He doesn’t just blindly quiesce to my will — he tries to ignore it, tries to get around it and tests my resolve. We aren’t exactly equals, but he isn’t obsequious either. Sometimes we are at an impasse of some sort that we have to get beyond and one or the other of us eventually relents. There is never a battle to determine the outcome, it’s always a negotiation. I’ve never had a relationship with an animal or a human quite like it. I think about what the man at the eclipse said about his dog and I now understand it.

Waldo is my friend.

My buddy, Waldo.

1 comment

Sounds like Waldos training of you is coming along nicely. Give him a pat for me …

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