Sunday, December 27, 2009

Walks That Love

I often receive emails from people who read my blog. They share with me the ways that they've found themselves waking up in the company of a dog. Melissa Bachynski is one of them and her recent message to me is one that I'd like to share with all of you.

Two things have recently changed in my life: first, a dear friend of mine sent me a gift of an Ipod. I'm finally in the 21st century with the rest of the world. I love listening to all types of music and now that I'm bussing to work, I can enjoy that love while in transit. The other day I was prepared with my Michael Bublé as I approached the bus stop, ready to enjoy the 20 minute wait for my connection. As I put an earphone in one ear, the woman beside me started up a conversation. So much for Bublé. Because I'm of Irish decent, I cannot pass up a conversation...ever. This woman recently emigrated from Iran and we discussed the cultural differences between her home and her experience in Canada thus far. We eventually started talking about food (primarily because it was close to lunch, but I imagine the fast-food restaurant next to our bus stop helped). She expressed disgust for fast food, but not because of the nutritional value. Instead she said, “It has no love, no attention. There is no connection between the person that made it and you. You don't even know that person. There is no love.” It struck me as an odd concept, food that loves. Her point was that the person that made the food didn't care about the person eating the food. And, given the sheer numbers of burger-toting teens at the stop, they made the food quickly without paying attention to it. She said this was why the food was so bad for us. Interesting.

What does this incident have to do with dogs and Ipods? The second thing that has changed in my life is my sweet dog; he has lost almost all his hearing and his vision is at about 50%. We are learning to cope. When I realized his hearing was going, I started to teach him hand signals. The most important one of all has been the “yeah, you're fabulous” signal. Since he can't always distinguish my facial features, the "yeah” signal (which is the ASL sign for applause) is dramatic and obvious. When I got home after my discussion with the bus-stop woman, I suited my dog up for a walk. I thought I would take the Ipod on our walk to finally indulge in my Bublé desires. I've seen many people out walking or running with their dogs while plugged in to an Ipod, and, given my boy cannot hear me babbling away to him anymore, I thought listening to music wouldn't make a difference. We stepped out the door and headed towards the park. Within about two minutes I realized my dog was heeling beside me, staring up at me with a look of consternation on his face. Something was definitely wrong with him. I turned off Bublé and squatted down, which earned me a giant sloppy lick only a Boston can deliver. He started trotting ahead of me, and then turned back as if to say, “Aren’t you coming?” It was at that moment I realized I wasn't treating our walk as an important bonding moment, but as just another thing I had to do that day. There was no love in our walk, no attention.
Once again, my dog has taught me in actions what a person told me in words...and the actions made a larger impression than the words.

I now leave the Ipod in the stereo dock for impromptu dancing sessions with my dog while cooking, as well as keeping a careful watch of those humans around me while waiting for the bus. But Bublé can always sit on pause because I don't intend to miss an important moment in which I can connect with another being in a positive way.

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.
Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,
And human love will be seen at its height.
Live in fragments no longer.
Only connect...

--E.M. Forster, Howards End

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