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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Day in the Life

Singer leads on her walk like a sailor on the prow of a ship. She looks out as she floats along, stepping like hot peppers—quick and spicy—her nose doing the navigating. Her green world today is misty from ground fog, and the spring is well under way with leaves and flowers halfway grown. A lovely time of year. But she is all business—her nose is scouting out the animals within a radius of a hundred feet or so, and there are a motherlode of them in this park. Garner Park is decorated with spots of prairie, woods and open fields where all kinds of animals are lured into thinking the city is reverting back to nature. Deer and turkeys, wild muskrats (there’s a fetid pond surrounded by trees—sort of a coven for animals), and who knows what else come here. I wonder if they feel cheated when they realize it’s only a sham? Singer’s nose keeps track of their numbers and kinds, I’m sure, better than an Excel spreadsheet. Other dogs and their owners are taking a stroll through this unreal patch of wilderness, too.

Singer’s field of vision is like a video game as she moves through the environment. The greenery flashes by as if we are players whose quest is to find the hidden animals. I join her in this game, and try to spot the animals before she becomes riveted. But of course, I fail. She is always several steps ahead of me, her scenting powers almost magical and unparalleled by any of my modest abilities. I’m just content to stay behind and watch, like the novice sibling whose skilled sister is a master gamer.

While turning onto our block to go home, we hear the lamentably familiar urgent barking from Arrow, our neighbor’s Border Collie who is always outside, unhappily, in the backyard. He is barking now as he scents us coming near his front yard. Arrow is hardly ever out of his yard, a misfortune for such a young and energetic breed. Singer walks by and although the house is across the street, she quickens her pace slightly. Is she hurrying so she can avoid her less fortunate neighbor? I’m reminded of how people react when confronted with those who are down on their luck. I know I hurry past the homeless and try not to think about their fate.  Sometimes I guiltily add a few dollars to their outstretched hands.

I doubt dogs have the capacity to compare their lives to other canine lives, especially based on such little evidence. But I listen to Arrow barking a lot, and I know that he sounds lonely. I want to do something to help him out, but don’t know what I can do. It seems unfair that Singer gets at least one walk a day, sometimes two or three, while Arrow hardly ever gets out. One time, (I didn’t witness this, my neighbor did) Arrow was let out of his yard and the children were supposed to be watching him. But Arrow attacked a man while he was walking his two little white dogs, and one of them ran away. I guess Arrow got punished for that.

I hear the sadness in his bark as we walk by, every day, or later while on the couch reading. He barks because he is alive and he wants his people to know that. He barks to let the neighborhood dogs know that he is alive. He barks to hear his own bark. I hear you, Arrow. I wish I could help you. 

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