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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Paws Have It


Her paw comes up and rests on my knee. It is rough and the claws are strong when she puts pressure on them and they come out of their sheathing. I take her paw and massage between her toes, where the soft and fuzzy fur grows. She likes that, I can tell. If I stop, she paws me for more. So I oblige.

Her rough paws always smell like the earth, even in winter. She retains this scent of the ground as a way of keeping in touch with the earth. Like an oceanic animal retains the scent of the sea, she holds the essence of earth in her paws. Her paws are one with the earth, where she digs in pleasure and industry. Her tail wags and her crusty, strong paws find common molecules in that microbial soil while the loamy scent of minerals and decay seeps in. Her paws are sponges, soaking up information received by the moist, cool substance and she is savoring all that she can for later.

We like to think our hands are superior to paws, but I don’t think so. Dogs have a special gift in that their paws are extensions of the earth, pungent reminders of immortality. Dogs are practical, and use their paws for getting food, love, even the toy that is wedged underneath the sofa. Singer uses her paws in all these ways and more. She loves to paw the earth and leaves in the backyard, and certain smells that beguile her. Her paws tell her stories that she reserves for bedtime. They keep the scent of narratives secret until her mind is quiet and her eyes are closed to the world. Then she sees what the molecules of her paws have been transcribing all day long, and it unravels like a beautiful, fascinating story.

As she is dreaming, and her paws are working again, scratching the air and the wall, I understand that her digging has become a story retold in another language. Her paws remember. And the scent of her scratchings in the dirt will waft in the air and she will whimper in her sleep as the story comes to an end. I reach down to touch her, savoring the scent in the air, communing with her dig like characters whose story I have been following and have come to love. It is as if I am right there in the dirt beside her, and I too don’t want the story to end. 

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