Since my last post several weeks ago, a lot has happened to remind me how much the quality of our realities depends on how we process the sensory stimuli we receive from the world around us. It began when winter ended. I don’t mean “ended” as in “It gradually started to get warmer and the snow gradually melted.” I mean ended as in kaput, pffffttt! One day and it was winter and the next, the Big Thaw was on. Plow lines along the road, driveway, and front walk shrank so rapidly, I felt disoriented and even somewhat vulnerable. Until it wasn’t there, I didn’t realize what a safe cocoon all that snow made. Human and animals had been pretty much limited to the walk and small parking area in front of the house with few distractions. By January, the plow lines on either side of the road and driveway were so high and deep that skidding while driving wasn’t much of issue. True, I might bounce off a snow bank, but there was no way I was going to go through one and down an embankment or into a ditch.
The snow melted so quickly that I had the distinct feeling that, sans all that snow on either side, I could fall off the walk and into the flower beds lining it. The slight feeling of vertigo that accompanied this fortunately waned before questions regarding my mental stability had time to form. As the snow receded in the parking area, I felt like a dog confined to a run whose barriers suddenly disappear: Where did all this space come from? As the area exposed rapidly grew larger and larger, I also discovered another faulty perception on my part: the dogs hadn’t been eliminating around the perimeter of the parking area; they’d been eliminating around the perimeter of the plowed parking area. Because this area kept shrinking, that meant quite a large area.
Another perception that bit the dust was that I’d been able to clean up after them all winter, except when there was a storm. On second thought, that perception was probably pretty accurate. It was just that we had so many storms that there still was a lot to clean up. The worst part of that was that some of it was Watson’s. In that instant I sensed what it must feel like to stumble upon the disintegrating remains of droppings left by the last member of an endangered species. Seeing that irrefutable physiological evidence of a being once so alive who was no more and never would be again hit me very hard, much harder than finding one of Watson’s old toys.
But while I was trying to negotiate this metaphysical morass, the puppies, Fric, and BeeBee were in heaven. Each day brought a new layer of scents for them to process and more ground to explore. Best of all, it brought puddles of water and mud to chase each other through. I’m sure there are those who would disagree, but I don’t think any breed of dog can get as much splash distance out of a mud puddle than a corgi who hits one at full speed with his or her fat front feet. The only exception might be a brain-damaged corgi named BeeBee whose normal high-speed gait consists of lunging attacks on the ground with her front paws. This is not a dog you want to be wearing your white prom dress around on a rainy day! In spite of this and providing further evidence of my questionable mental state, I took the puppies out every day and watched them transform themselves and each other from fluff balls into sodden lumps of mud and debris.
Since I last wrote the last two puppies have gone to wonderful homes and things dried out in more than a week of days so dry and sunny I felt giddy. The pups’ departure was easier for Fric this time (see http://www.mmilani.com/commentary-200606.html for a description of what happened the last) because this time one of them stayed, although there are times she looks at him then at me as if to say, “Remind me again. Why was it that I didn’t want them all to go away?”
Getting back to perceptions, from the time the puppies were born, I had to constantly remind myself that they weren’t deaf. I’d become so use to linking “puppy” with “deaf” since BeeBee’s arrival that I had to consciously override that inclination. Now that it’s Fric, Bee, and Ollie, the human-canine communication is such a curious mix of signals for the deaf, visually impaired, and uncoordinated, a “normal” adult, and a “normal” puppy that–I admit–I periodically get confused. So, for example, I sometimes might give a verbal command to Bee and an exaggerated hand signal to Ollie. Interesting (and thankfully!) Bee is becoming very good at reading my lips or the body language associated with those verbal commands while Fric has mastered the exaggerated signals I use with Bee and is teaching them to Ollie.
What’s even more interesting is that there are times when BeeBee is, as I refer to her, “the good dog.” This usually occurs when I use both a verbal and a hand (more correctly a sweeping arm) signal when I want the dogs to come in after a play session. Perhaps because she intuitively recognizes that she needs to stay on my good side more than the other two, Bee is usually the first to respond. Fric has already figured out that, if Bee comes, pretty much all of her excuses for not coming go down the toilet. I can easily imagine her saying to Ollie, “Son, if the deaf, half-blind brain-damaged dog obeys when she gives the signal, you’re gonna have a hard time convincing her you didn’t know what she was talking about.” Whatever the reason, Ollie’s response is getting much better, although I’ve had to remind Fric on several occasions that verifying that the young and disabled are headed safely into the house is not her signal to take off and do her own thing.
Meanwhile the yellow alien has vanished and reappeared so many times, I’ve lost count. I assume it has something to do with Frica because, until the past two days, she’s the only one I’ve ever seen pay any attention to it. However, two days ago Ollie discovered it and likes to drag in under a chair where he’s safe from Bee’s probing proboscis. Once there, he happily gnaws on it for a while until the cat goes by or Bee turns her back. Then the chase is on.
And so life continues.