Last week, celebrating Fall Break and all the things we don’t normally get to do, we took the Wowpup to Allisonia so we could walk up the river to the Little Reed Island bridge. It’s one of our favorite walks, not least because I grew up there, and have been walking those hills since I was so little my dad had to carry me home. Anyway, the only thing the pup loves more than a car ride is a walk, and getting both in the same trip, well!
We were not two hundred yards from the car when we met Max. Everybody tensed up, since Max is a muscular type of dog, replete with the jauntiness of youth and completely unencumbered with humans. I got a tight grip on my walking stick, and my Beloved choked up on the leash. We do not call him the FloofDog for nothing; he’s about as muscular as a marshmallow, as tough as a piece of cheese.
Turns out, we were needlessly fearful, as is so often the case. Max proved to be a cupcake, only interested in making some new friends. (We knew his name was Max because someone had written it with a Sharpie on his day-glo waterproof collar.) He just wanted to hang out and walk with us, which he did, bouncing ahead and then back to the Wowpup, as if to say, “Can’t you do something about that leash? Here, smell this!”
Dogs can be oddly social. Max and the Wowpup behaved as if they’d made an appointment to meet on the trail. After the initial sniff of greeting, they pretty much sniffed other things together. They wove their way down the trail with Max bouncing in front and then rushing back to check that the older dog was still behind him, and still enjoying the same sniffs of trail-side goodness. When a biker went by, Max let me hold his collar, just to keep the biker from being nervous. A stuffed dog toy would not have been more gentle.
The four of us walked the trail in the slanted evening light, two dogs bouncing and sniffing (except on the bridge, where the Wowpup went all hangdog. Go figure.) Newly-fallen leaves smelled wonderful and marked our passage with an autumnal whispering. In that peaceful time, our brains could let go of all the things we’re worried about; instead, we focused on the antics of two dogs, who have never, ever worried about the future.
Dogs just live in the moment. Hey! A walk! Whee! A car ride! Oh, hey! Another dog! Best day ever!
This is why I love dogs. They’re okay with the Now. It’s not some anthropomorphized Zen thing; it’s just how dogs are. The Now is all they’ve got, and they don’t get fretted about it. Humans also only have the Now. But we also have the ability to imagine the Later, which never looks like what we’ve imagined, but that doesn’t stop us. The Later has given me insomnia lately, while my Beloved and the Wowpup snore in unison because they are wiser than me. I have got to learn some stuff. Does that count as inappropriate focus on the Later?
My Beloved and I walked down to the millrace to let the pups have a drink. The City Dog stood at the edge of the stream, lapping. The Country Dog waded right in, lying down in mid-stream with his mouth open, I suppose on the theory that it’s easier to let the river run in than to suck it up. They were two happy dogs.
Max walked us all the way back to our car. If we had given him the slightest encouragement, he would have jumped in, (which would be unfortunate for somebody, and is a good enough reason not to let a dog roam un-humaned.) We left him in Allisonia, where his family will no doubt be happy to see him. He won’t worry about the Wowpup, and by the time we got home, the Wowpup was singularly focused on getting a treat.
I don’t think I can live life the way my dog does. Somebody has to pay the bills, buy the Denta-Treats, and keep the water bowl filled. But maybe I can lighten up a little, lie down in the river and let it come to me a bit. At least be more in the Now and less in the Later, so I can be happier in both.