Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Frosty Pumpkins

Genni's owners are so adept at depicting the changing seasons that I'm seriously considering letting her be the model for each blog entry. Not a taxing job, considering I've deteriorated to less-than-monthly postings of late! October came and went with nary a mention, consumed as it was with preparations for the North American Sieger Show, harvest, raising Ella's pups, and the goings-on around Hollow Hills. What goings-on? Well, now that you ask...

I've come to realize that when folks ask "what have you been up to?" there really is no way to answer the question. When I answer literally, replying with what I feel is a succinct summary, the facial expression of the listener often spurs my inclination to add "you shouldn't ask if you're going to let your eyes glaze over like that." Granted, detailed descriptions of poopy puppy papers or repetitious tales of exercising the dogs, digging potatoes, or gathering eggs, regardless of the subtle joy of simple work well done, doesn't mean much to those not familiar with such activities. But if I accept the inquiry as social custom generally intends it and say simply, "oh, not much" I always feel I've copped out by condoning meaningless, hypocritical, superficiality. Does the question ever really imply a sincere desire to know what's going on in another person's life? Couldn't we better translate it as "do you have anything juicy to tell me?" or even more narcissistically "hurry up and ask me what's going on in my life."

I thought that would segue into the contrasting experience with dogs and how very different that relationship is. They do seem genuinely more attentive than the average human listener. But my thoughts snagged on countless images of being pawed, pushed, herded, manipulated and generally bamboozled into doing precisely what my furry buddies want. Frankly, dogs are just about as self-centered as people. In fact, when training, that's the very principle that I utilize to get them to comply with my own wishes. I have what they want, be it food or toys, and I convey to them through body language that I'm willing to trade that desired-object for certain behaviors on their part. I'm catering to their obsessive self-interest, if you want to look at it that way, in a sort of reverse-psychology trade-off. Their perspective flips it around, though; from their vantage, they've figured out how to manipulate me into giving them what they want!

With dogs, at least, there are occasions when their focus on me seems to extend beyond self-interest, at least I like to believe the gaze directed at me is, sometimes, one of affection, devoid of ulterior motives. Can the same be said of people? The clarity and unguarded directness of my dogs' eyes convey a depth and wisdom that seems largely absent from most human encounters. We all know the story of Hachi, the Akita who returned to look for his deceased master every day for the rest of his life. Yet when a person is "crazy about" another person, how very rarely does that devotion continue when the object of that devotion no longer stokes the fire?

I'm convinced that humans give only to get. And maybe that's not such a terrible thing - maybe it's not as gratuitous as it sounds. Sure, I'm a soon-to-be-divorcee, a daughter and granddaughter of divorced couples, so admittedly my thoughts on the matter may be a tad cynical. I ask myself, as I've asked myself innumerable previous times, whether this dog/animal-centric life I've orchestrated for myself is the cop-out; have I chickened out of the more difficult, complex, heart-breaking but potentially enriching prospect of meaningful relationships with my own kind? And when a friendship fades or a romance withers, I ask myself whether I will ever know if my relationships with animals are, for me, the path of least resistance, or guides to a deeper, truer connection? Am I waiting for someone to be as open-hearted, as honest as my dogs? As unfailingly direct as my horse? As charming as my cat? Is the bar too high?