‘The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s…’
— Mark Twain
HERE'S THE THING. I had written a column on climate change deniers the other day and today I tossed it aside. Not the day for it, I thought, though it gets to me often, you know, that some people can still stand up straight and say there is no climate change and the crazy patterns we see are just weather happening ‘so let’s not get carried away’.
Or that seeking alternative renewable energies is a fool’s errand because ‘look, you’re driving a car too, don’t you need gas to do that?’. As cognizant as I am that we are on a timer here and it’s unfathomable that we’re not all huddling together to say in a big loud chorus ‘OK, what can we do to save ourselves and our children?’ I also get tired of explaining to anyone who is not willing to accept simple facts that climate change is real and a threat of the kind humans have never seen before. Sadly, there is only that much time in a day.
Living in denial is nothing new. Living in denial at the expense of your fellow humans though is a different matter altogether. And yes, I agree it’s not the simple people like us that often pull the big strings to make change happen; it’s the big boys who play dirty and make the word ‘more’ their mantra. Still, we can influence change.
Amidst such frustrating thoughts I am grateful to be tethered (literally, at times) to my dog with whom I go for long hikes and walks every day and I get to divert the focus from the big world I have no chance to fixing any time soon to the small one I can immerse myself in as we step on fresh trails every morning.
Since having her, I have come to meet people in the neighbourhood and the mesh of stories we build with every day of walking is fascinating. So instead of telling you about how climate change deniers make it hard to hope at times or how climate change reality often carves off any optimism, I will tell you how the daily outings with my dog connect me to fellow humans in a different way and that alone gives me hope that maybe…
There is the lady who has a rambunctious Golden Retriever who is so big you can hear the ground thundering from far away as he runs towards you and you think you’ll get trampled but instead he does a gentle enough landing by your feet awaits petting. The lady is just about to have a baby and I can more than relate to the worries and big expectations a second child brings. There’s mellowness in the air, the good kind, when people let themselves be seen and you realize that you’re not alone in how you face life – with joy, anxiety or worries.
Then there’s the elderly gentleman with a small white dog whose wife passed away recently. If he is not too tired after his walk he often stops to tell me how much silly simple joy my puppy will bring me (she is not even eight months yet) and I will love it all. I do already. I know he is right.
He then sighs and says about his own: ‘She’s all I have; I don’t know what I’m going to do when she dies too…’ We part, thoughts abounding. I think of this amazing companionship people and dogs build, I think of how fragile we are and how easy we give away days and months and years even without realizing that the most prized possession we have is life. I think of my parents, both gone, and then of my present family, my sons, and how precious every day is simply because I am alive to be with them. Easy to forget in the tumultuous flight we often poise ourselves for instead of remembering to glide for a change…
There is the elderly guy whose dog passed and though he misses him a lot he will not get another because the dog might outlive him and the thought is too much for him to bear. I find that so endearingly selfless. He pets every dog he meets and smiles. My dog wraps around his feet for a few extra minutes.
The black Lab/Border Collie mix who is very playful has the most cheerful owner who always laughs at her antics and tells the craziest stories about her rambunctiousness. Because he knows how much it hurts to lose a dog, he chooses to not frown but keep on the lighter side of life.
I get to hear bits of life, and I share bits of mine. There’s smiles and sighs and parting with ‘see you tomorrow’. Who knows what tomorrow brings. I hope it brings thoughtfulness and more selflessness. More togetherness. That might just solve the issue with societal denial of facts and realities that affect us all. Maybe.
You see, the world of dogs is a much simpler one. There is no denial of anything. Straightforward is the way to go and if we care to give them the time of day, they’ll make it easier for us to take life’s ups and downs and make a better journey out of them all.
I’ll let my dog point me to the right trail for now. To remind me, just like my sons always do, that time is all we have. And you cannot win all the battles, no matter how honourable your intentions to save the world. You choose your battles instead, leaving enough time to taste and really see each day. That alone can build up home for a better tomorrow.