Theo has the most expressive eyes. He looks right into my soul and tries very hard to tell me things that half the time I just can’t get.
But still he is patient. Dog ways are not human ways.
He is deeply into his chewing phase of puppyhood. I know that he is teething, helping soothe what must be an annoying sensation of having a whole head of wolfy teeth grow through his gums.
But still he is patient.
He’s doing really well on the leash. The only challenge has been how ape-shit he goes whenever he sees a human being on our walks. He stands stock still, with eyes piercing – trying to make some kind of psychic contact. I can’t tug him away, he’s rooted to the sidewalk.
He waits, he thinks that it’s only a matter of time that he can jump on that stranger, lick his or her face. Once again, he pleads with me using his eyes, but I can’t get what he wants. You can’t love every person you come across, can you?
But again he is patient.
Yesterday we rounded a corner and there was a Patagonia wearing young man rolling his trash can to the street. Theo leapt into his arms, nearly knocking him down, licking and licking this guy. I apologized over and over, but I couldn’t control that eros.
And the guy laughed and said I love it.
It occurs to me that because a dog lacks hands with thumbs, he must use his mouth and tongue as the point of contact for all exploration and thus, understanding. He chews to explore the world, like human infants who nurse.
That is why I know that Theo is smarter than me, most days, anyway. There seems to be no veil between his senses and his connection to the world. For me, my instincts are not as sharp. I’m sure I’ve lost touch with a lot of the sensory wisdom I had as a child.
And isn’t that the point?
Having a dog, or any animal (guinea pigs excluded), brings us closer to a different kind of knowing. It’s a communication that cuts through the bullshit of politeness and fear. It’s like love without brakes. One that is pure, instinctual and completely in the present.
Theo lives within the present, deeply enmeshed in time in a way we humans try our darndest to meditate toward.
Theo lives there. And I try to pick up some of the habits.
But sometimes it kinda gets to me when he whines or looks at me with his head cocked, as if he would jump off a building if he could only talk like me. I really want to understand.
And I wonder how he can stand it, not being understood most of the time.
A friend once asked me what my greatest fear was when I was growing up. And I said, for me it was the fear of not being understood.
Because I can’t stand the feeling. I just don’t want people to get me wrong. To be articulate mattered more than anything. If my external self couldn’t always hold up, my words might just save me.
Even if it’s just for my own peace of mind. I remember going back through my childhood diaries one time and feeling irritated, like that’s not what you were trying to say, Beth.
So maybe my writing will always be my attempt to distill what it is I want to say and to assert my true self.
Maybe hitting the return button over and over and then the publish button is sending out internet signals into the void, like pleading puppy eyes.
Like Theo, maybe I have to keep yipping, wagging my tail and cocking my head to the side.
I think all of us want to connect and there are thousands of ways we try to do it, some as subtle as a smile, some as enigmatic as an argument carried on over many years.
Communication, it’s the hardest thing of all.
But we don’t give up, we are patient, there is love out there, and we know it.