I recently read this by Gunilla Norris in Journeying in Place: “I wonder how different life would be for me if I could be as lacking in self-doubt and self-judgment as Putnam [the author's dog]. His whole being demonstrates an assumption that he is a lovable creature, a deserving creature, and an enjoyable one … to as act as if one had the total endorsement of the universe behind one’s particular existence would be extraordinary!”
Earlier this week I decided to try to resume some sort of exercise regime — more on this later, dear readers — and began with a walk up to Bahle Park. When I got there my neighbor Kathy was there with her dog and another dog. The other dog, wearing no collar, came running up to me, jumped up, wrapped her paws around my waist and starting kissing me like we were long lost friends, so glad to see me, a dear old buddy, and without hesitation it felt that way to me too.
It turns out this other dog is lost. Apparently she had been hanging around the park for at least a few days, though she isn’t a stray: she is well cared for, knows basic commands and has, shall we say, a caboose that indicates she hasn’t missed many meals. She is a real lover and seems just as happy and trusting as she can be.
Kathy and I, and later her kids, hung out in a quandary about what to do, so for now the dog is waiting at the vet’s office to be taken (gulp) to the humane society in Traverse City. This whole story has consumed much of my waking time the last few days; not only the phone calls, going door to door and postering, but also a great sense of concern and interest in this wonderful dog, a sense of reignited delight about the way our animal companions teach us important things.
I love dogs (except two, who shall remain nameless); I love their enthusiasm about meeting people and about themselves. When they are treated well, they behave like a welcoming committee for every moment and every person they see. I read somewhere how much better the world would be if we could greet everyone the way our dogs greet us. Of course, if I were to run up to total strangers, wrap my arms around them and start kissing them, it would be, let’s say, troubling. But I do wonder what it would be like, as Norris says, to ”act as if one had the total endorsement of the universe behind one’s particular existence.”
We are coming up on the Jewish High Holidays or “Days of Awe,” when we work to reset our inner spiritual compasses to goodness and holiness. I had some lofty ideas about my goals for the new Jewish year, but now that the universe has plopped this story in my lap, I am starting to consider what it would be like to live this year as if I had the total endorsement of the universe behind my existence.
I hope the dog finds her way, or someone can give her a good home. She is a good teacher.