"You could grow into it,
that sense of living like a dog,
loyal to being on your own in the fur of your skin,
able to exist only for the sake of existing".—Joanna Carlsen (1)
Since first reporting on life in quarantine with Bella, she has become such an integral part of my daily life that I almost don't remember living without her. But as we celebrated her second birthday on December 12 and look forward to the anniversary of her adoption this month, it seems like a good time to reflect on the last several months of our quarantined existence.
"For she does not lie awake in the dark and weep for her sins, and whine about her condition, and discuss her duty to God.
For I'd as lief pray with your dog Molly as with any man.
For she knows that God is her savior."—David Lehman (2)
At this point in our companionship, Bella and I have settled into a comfortable routine of walks and indoor play and time spent in our different pursuits, mine being things like reading, writing, and bike trips, hers being sleeping and eating and…sleeping and eating. I certainly don't take her for granted but we've gotten used to each other. Nevertheless, the experience of opening my eyes in the morning and looking into hers—large, brown, warm—never gets old.
The daily round remains much the same: a short walk first thing in the morning, one longer walk late morning, short pre-dinner walk, and finally an evening walk of varying length depending on time, weather, fatigue level, et. al.
But the nature of these excursions has changed greatly as Bella has accumulated many human and canine friends who we frequently encounter. Three- or four-way conversations ensue as dogs sniff and wag and spar while owners chat before moving on.
"Dog around the block, sniff,
Hydrant sniffing, corner, grating,
Sniffing, always, starting forward,
Backward, dragging, sniffing backward…"—E.B. White (3)
Though I generally enjoy being outdoors walking with my beloved companion, these daily rounds are each pretty similar to me. But every one is a new adventure for Bella. Countless dogs, squirrels, humans, and other animals have passed through since last we were here. New vehicles are parked along our routes, new construction or other human activity is occurring, everything has to sniffed and analyzed.
"Along the path, amid the grass
I sniff, and find out rarest smells
For rolling over as I pass
The open fields toward the dells."—Thomas Hardy (4)
Of particular importance, of course, is choosing the right spot to go to the bathroom. It is endlessly amusing to me to watch Bella pause, almost squat, sniff around in a larger radius, then choose her location. I have developed a hypothesis that there exists a vast canine communication network connecting dogs across hundreds, even thousands, of miles. Chains of messages delivered via urination travel along these paths, hence the need to sniff each patch thoroughly. Some need only be noted, others require a reply.
"I love my dog as much as I love you,
but you may fade, my dog will always come through."—Cat Stevens (5)
As I write, Bella is curled up on my bed, lifting her head occasionally to be sure I'm still here, drowsing away on a cold day. It was snowing earlier and Bella was having nothing of it. She hightailed it back inside after less than a minute, then sulked under the dining room table, staring mournfully at me as if I were responsible for the filthy weather. A couple of treats later, all was forgiven and we have spent a quiet afternoon together, she sleeping while I write.
Happiest of holidays to all my readers!
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