Originally posted on June 26, 2016
We called the new neighbor Mr. Milo, simply bestowing upon the quiet, anonymous man his dog’s name. The dog and the man not only looked identical, but their presence was perfectly mirrored in the other. Both were contained, delicate and deliberate. Dog was a tidy greyhound who always wore a neat, season-appropriate coat. Man was white and non-descript, impeccably dressed in anonymous taupe outerwear. On long and delicate legs, together they walked with a deliberate flow of paced, guarded energy. They showed no affect at all.
My dogs did. Lucy Doodle, the charismatic blond leader of our family and Party Dog Extraordinaire was clearly the most expressive being I have ever met. She walked on her leash on my right, generally disheveled in appearance, reacting to life with “big energy”, as we would fondly say, in our better moments. Zac Joe Doodle, the silly supporting man on my left, was always game to get on board the newest adventure. He was the full-hearted, fully available follower. I walked in the middle, with a wary and cautious eye to the world, always looking for that bunny around the next tree, waiting in its seductive stillness. My dogs were neither contained, delicate or deliberate. They pulled and danced against the leash, walking, living and playing with great, wild abandon. I was younger then, committed to the illusion of control, a life strategy that didn’t work terribly well.
Our general encounters with Milo and Mr. Milo on the dirt roads where we lived and walked were never pretty. Milo seemed above the canine fray, and the Doodle Fray on my right and left were anxious to insert themselves into Milo’s tidy world. Embarrassed exchanges occurred between the humanoids while the canines, seemingly from distinct species, regarded each other with disdain (on Milo’s part) and eager possibility (on the Doodles’.) But we always managed to extricate ourselves from any embarrassing tangle of leashes, legs or barks.
Until The Event. The Event happened one morning on the Beach Road. All was well in Doodle-Land as we rounded the corner, the last stretch of the road ahead. A walk without incident was always my unconscious goal, to protect the dogs (hence myself) from any variable of life, like a rabbit or dog encounter. I still saw the world as a dangerous place; it was my job to protect the dogs and myself from all variables. Lucy and Zac did not agree with my perspective. They were eagerly, excitedly and messily available for life as it occurred.
As we rounded the corner to head home, walking toward us in rhymed content containment was the Milo Family, humanoid and canine. Some invisible energetic switch must have flipped on in young Lucy’s brain. Filled up with whatever dog hormones drive one toward instant insanity, she lunged ahead, with Milo and Mr. as her sole focus. Zac, always ready to follow his sister’s lead, surged behind her. The intensity of jerking of both leashes startled me and knocked me down onto my knees. However, I would not be deterred. I held onto the leashes and, dramatically and whole-bodily, literally went down with the Canine Ship.
Think Ben-Hur. Think the chariot scene, but without the chariot.
The Doodles dragged me across and up the dirt road, with me on my knees, holding the leashes for dear life. We traveled in this terrified, breakneck fashion for perhaps a half a block, time and distance illusively at a standstill. Milo and Mr. stood stock still as we descended upon them, crazy dogs with crazy person literally attached.
The rest is a blur. Perhaps I sputtered an apology, attempting to seem normal, despite the fact I was still on my knees and in a cloud of dust, deposited at the Milos’ feet. My dogs danced and pranced with glee, with Milo looking down at us, I swear, with a sneer of disgust. The Milos extricated themselves; somehow I managed to stand and limp home.
My dogs have taught me about my illusion of control. The tension between offering them training while letting them be exactly who they are has been life-changing for me, rich with growth and development. But I was younger then, a newer dog-companion, and righteously pissed at them. I swore vehemently I would never walk them again, a proclamation that lasted seven hours. I have since learned that being angry at a dog is a futile and ridiculous contradiction of life itself.
Lucy is gone now. Although it’s been some years, our house still echoes with a strange emptiness. Zac has emerged as the man of the house with quiet dignity and incredibly calm-mostly-good-boy-behavior. Both Milos disappeared overnight from our neighborhood with an expected lack of fanfare. My knees eventually recovered, my temper calmed.
I continue to grow and learn from my relationship with Zac, my dear soul companion. I think of my chariot ride courtesy of the Doodles up the Beach Road with some tender snickers today. Its memory still tickles my heart. My canine companions continue to give me the ride of a lifetime as I practice letting go of the reins.
My dear Reader-Friend-People, what memory lightens your heart today? What brings you a snicker of relief? How are your lessons being delivered to you? Please do keep your emails rolling in—firstname.lastname@example.org. I love hearing from you!