Mary Oliver wrote an essay about dogs called "Dog Talk" that I just love. I love it for many reasons, mostly because it appreciates dogs for their complexity and challenges me to overcome my fear of them.
In her essay, she reminds us that dogs are from two worlds — the domestic and the wild — and that they uniquely experience both fully. She writes, "Dog promises and then forgets." And doesn't he? I sense in Rusty an intelligence that communicates with me and makes contractual agreements.
- "I won't pull on the leash if you take me to that thing over there."
- "I won't wake you if you prioritize me and take me out right away."
- "I'll do pretty much anything you want if you give me a treat."
But then there are moments of demanding behavior, or of hunting, or of playfulness and he is overcome. The contracts that bind us are far away.
Reading Oliver's essay, I thought, "Human realizes and then forgets." I have moments of deep insight into who I am, or how it all works, or what I need or want and then I am distracted — just like Rusty when he smells a chicken bone on the sidewalk or spies a neighborhood cat underneath a porch — and I lose it. I get distracted by the details and the drama and I am overcome. The wisdom that I once found is far away.
Humans are entirely domesticated, but we do know a similar duality. We live as both the grasshopper and the ant, both the tortoise and the hare, both the domestic dog that promises and the wild one that goes after whatever it desires, or fears, and forgets.