Monday, May 24, 2010


Have you ever had two totally different experiences combine to create a single Ah-Ha! moment (or, more usually for me, a D-oh! moment?)

Today, while grocery shopping, I noticed an older woman walking slowly along, pushing her shopping cart and holding the (very) loose leash of her lovely black Lab service dog. They were doing absolutely nothing noteworthy, and if I hadn’t been walking right towards them I wouldn’t have noticed them at all.

She shuffled along, focusing on her shopping, and her dog shuffled along beside her, mirroring her pace with placid patience, walking past all sorts of fragrant produce with nary a sniff.

I smiled and continued on, rushing here and there to collect strawberries, bananas, and lament the lack of blueberries (sigh). I ran into them again (figuratively, of course) a bit later. The woman appeared to be lost in thought staring at the wall of serve-yourself-containers. Her dog was now sitting beside her, his only motion being a wistful sniff of the blackberry basket in her cart. As I grabbed some spaghetti sauce jars, I saw her start moving again, and, without a word that I could hear from just a few feet away, her dog got up and continued his slow, plodding pace right beside her.

Skip forward a few hours, and Hubby and I have the boys out on The Walk. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the air was pleasantly cool (for this time of year) and we were moving along at a brisk pace. (We always move along at a brisk pace, since the purpose of The Walk is to get the wiggles out of the boys and shuffling along just doesn’t cut it.)

And here a small inject of background information is required. Our boys, like dogs everywhere, have an amazingly large vocabulary. In addition to the words we have worked hard to teach them (boring things like Sit and Down and Stay…) they have picked up words that are far more meaningful to them (things like Walk and Out and Cookie...)

Particularly Cookie.

They can pick the word Cookie out of the most convoluted of sentences, spoken a room away, embedded in an hour long conversation, while appearing to be in a deep sleep.

It really is amazing.

Their ability to pick out the word Walk is also quite astounding, which is why we no longer walk our dogs. We shuffle, saunter, amble, hike, stroll, stretch legs or puppy paws, and sashay (well, I sashay – Hubby staunchly refuses.) Mr. Roget would be quite proud of us.

Which brings us, finally, to the reason I posted this (assuming anyone is still left reading.)

Today, as we were sashaying along, enjoying the beautiful weather, I just happened to say the word Cookie. I also just happened to be looking right at the dogs (2 feet away) when I said it. And you know what? Nobody heard me. Not an ear twitched, not a head turned. There wasn’t any indication what so ever that either dog had heard the word I said:


And that’s when I had my Ah-Ha! (aka D-oh!) moment. The dogs didn’t act like they heard me, because they actually hadn’t heard me. They hadn’t heard me because they weren’t listening to me. They weren’t listening to me because they knew, in the context of The Walk, there was absolutely nothing I was going to say that they were going to care about.

Oh sure, I occasionally ask Zachary to Sit while Beau does that Guy Thing on a shrub (Zachary isn’t allowed to acquire such bad habits – sometimes it sucks to be the Second Dog) and Zachary listens to that, but that’s more out of repetition than any real processing of something I said.

Thinking about it (probably for the first time ever) I realize that I neither do nor say anything of interest to either dog while we are on The Walk. Hubby and I walk along in our human world while the canines enjoy theirs and there is little or no interaction between the two species.

Contrast that with the woman this morning, lost in her own human world and her dog seemly lost in his own as well, and yet they remained connected. When she moved, he moved. When she stopped, he stopped. When they weren’t moving, he was watching the people and looking around in a mildly curious way – one might even think him non-attentive – and then she would move again and he would once again become her shadow.

I have no idea what his service dog job was, it’s none of my business and it’s not pertinent to my story. The point is that that they were connected in a way that I have yet to achieve with my boys – at least while on The Walk.

Once again I find myself without a clear conclusion, contemplating a “problem” that may or may not be worth fixing. Hubby sees The Walk as a relaxing time to get some fresh air and make our peaceable kingdom, well, peaceable. I enjoy The Walk because it gives Hubby and me a chance to chat about our day and unwind. The dogs enjoy The Walk because it gives them a chance to get out of the house and get some exercise, to walk along, side-by-side, and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the neighborhood.

Perhaps I should try to find a way to make myself more relevant to their world, or perhaps, in the one special context of The Walk, the boys should just be allowed to be dogs.

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