pressed against the edge of their cage,
asked me to open the door.
Years later I remember how I didn't do it,
how instead I walked away.
They had the brown eyes of soft-hearted dogs.
They didn't want to do anything so extraordinary,
only to fly home to their river.
--The Kookaburras, Mary Oliver
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it
--Rubaiyat, Omar Khayyam
I witnessed it while on my way to watch dogs at a friend's house in the country and seek some solitude. Choosing not to endure the gehenna of my destination's marketplace, the truck stop ten miles out is the only option for petrol.
A family had placed their dog, or a dog, outside of their car. As they made to enter Highway 90, the dog gave chase and fiercely barked and bit at the driver's door, tail high, with intent. What was he thinking? "Are you joshing with me?" "Hey, I'm out here, what's wrong . . . don't you see me?"
It was an average-sized dog of dark golden hue, indiscriminate breed -- a dog, in cared-for condition, agitated and confused as you might have been given his situation. 50 yards ahead was the I-10 exchange; surely this was a bad place to leave a dog.
Who would do such a thing? Were they mad because the dog had conducted some mischief? Did they think this was an opportune moment to divest themselves of their responsibility? Did they imagine a truck stop would be a good place for a dog to find a new home?
Are they the sorts who leave their kid somewhere and drive around the block as a practical joke, to "teach him a lesson"? Will they have fond memories of Christmas season 2011 when they divested themselves of 50 pounds of bother alongside the road somewhere in Florida?
Me, I had been indulging in some Buddhist-New Age fusion about coping before coming upon the scene. Ideas about acceptance and non-attachment were being employed to salve myself, "Resistance causes pain; resistance is futile." But then the dog.
Dogs are nothing if not devoted and singular-minded in this way, much worse than any love-blinded human. The dog could not enjoy my ruminations on how to lessen the stings dealt by one's fellows. His existence was being shattered in real time, and he had no tools to reason with this state of affairs. The owners may have been brutes, but they were his owners. Would they leave and turn back around on Hwy. 90 to pick him up? There aren't many places on Hwy. 90 for U-turns, so that seemed an unlikely prospect.
Leaving the lot, I watched as the people sat at the edge where the parking lot met the road, beeping their horn at the dog, cars going around them -- a scene of chaos. Was this to be the end of a life for this animal? Surely it looked like the end of one life.
My intentions for the next two days were humble ones: To seek a quiet retreat, to enjoy the company of two good dogs. More unhappy surprises involving dogs awaited me upon arrival. It was not a propitious beginning to my self-styled yoga retreat, but it made the need of it that much more pressing. I do not like humans, at times.
It is now New Year's Eve day; my retreat is over. Cruelty, whether intentional or through lack of compassion or simply the indifference of fate, seems a part of the human condition. We talk a lot here about situations that have already occurred, or are spooling out remote from our control. That can leave one feeling like railing out against one's perceived impotence.
While being informed and making critical assessments is a part of being a good citizen, you can do something even better. Resolve to not be indifferent when some being sincerely implores you. If we could really see ourselves in the other, much cruelty would stop. When you sit in the pews, that's a big part of the message.
Could you elevate even the mundane just a half-notch, and imagine that as you pass through your day even the smile you give might be just what someone needed to carry on? How you conduct yourself happens to matter, and you might never know when you have impacted someone else's life.
To all who stop by RangerAgainstWar, we wish you a healthy and prosperous 2012. Thank you for sharing your light with us, and with all who may have benefit of reading your thoughts. May you be kept warm by the light of those who love you, and whom you love.