Saturday, December 10, 2016

Animals in translation

Though it is possible I have given the impression, I am not diametrically opposed to dogs. Yesterday I walked by a fenced yard in my neighborhood and noted what seemed to be a newly acquired dog there. I gave it a wide birth. It was a reasonably intelligent and daffy looking Australian Shepherd. And I thought "Don't bark at me and we can begin to see about developing a cordial relationship."

He didn't bark, so there's that. He didn't even look like he was thinking about barking. This is essential.

Because barking is the deal breaker, albeit just one among many. The vocabulary of the bark may be complex; 101 Dalmatians even counted it as a fully articulate language. But that was at heart a fantasy novel. And though I am willing to ascribe complexity to the bark in all its manifestations, when I am on the sidewalks of my city and a dog barks at me I am firmly convinced it translates to only one thing:

"Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!" 

That is all a barking dog is ever saying in that context.

So although there is still hope with this new Australian Shepherd, we are really only at the barest of beginnings.

This should be contrasted with the enormous, reserved friendliness of the cats I have been meeting lately. For some odd, but delightful reason, they have suddenly begun accompanying me on walks. I know cats aren't known for "walks", but there it has been. It first happened when my wife and I were out for a stroll. A cat ran up to us. This is common enough. We said hello, and then we walked on. And the cat went with us. Sometimes the cat walked out ahead, sometimes at our side. It felt like a bit of delicate magic. I kept expecting it to end, but it went on for a couple blocks. I got the impression the cat had gone far enough away from home when it turned back, and that was it.

This happened again the same day I met the Australian Shepherd. I was far up the river, on a grassy median, when a calico cat trotted up to me and rubbed his ears against my hand. Then we walked together for awhile. The calico kept a cat-respectable distance, but there's no way around it: we were on a small journey together. We went pretty far too. And I was the one who caused the parting. I had to turn off of where we were in order to walk across the Franklin Bridge, alone.

It was not without a pang of regret.

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