To sit with a dog......
"......on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden..." Milan Kundera
An unexpected sentiment from an interesting character, it reminds me that even in the more controversial humans there can be found redeeming qualities. In his biography, Kundera seemed like a weak man who chose the easy path until things got difficult at which point he jumped ship. The preceding words to the above quote, "Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent," reveal maybe along the way Kundera learned to have a deeper understanding of things by connecting spiritually to all around him through his dog. Maybe his dog was the one thing he could commit to unconditionally. And maybe that is true of us all.
A native of Czechoslovakia, Kundera grew up in tumultuous times (born 1929) and in his teens joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Durning his education, Kundera realized some hard truths about Communism and due to anti-party writings was thrown out but by then his fellow Czech countrymen had abandoned him for not first following them in resisting the Communist Party. Kundera reformed his writing and found himself back in the good graces of the Communistic party, but was again expelled for his previous flip-flop of loyalty. Kundera turned on everybody, fled his native country and became a naturalized Frenchman.
Kundera's story reminds me of how humans are weak as a lump of clay, we are molded and shaped by our environments and can become stunted. We are susceptible to bending to the easiest paths and often don't wanna admit when we're wrong thus denying ourselves spiritual growth. Many of us never seek enlightenment, we don't even know what we don't know or worse, we think we know what we don't. I have observed in others and know within myself these shortcomings to be true. But it is one of my most rewarding goals to fix this part of me. I have found the greatest teachers for most things I want to learn are dogs and this subject is no exception.
Dogs' perspective is one in the moment, they see what they see with no forethought or hind sight. They do what is next with simple goals, stay safe, stay comfortable, stay loved. Dogs don't try to gain an advantage, they have no use for negotiating, their motivation is 100% unselfish.
Dogs made a deal with humans ages ago asking to be kept safe, comfortable and loved in exchange for unconditional companionship. That was the original contract plain and simple. Humans began to notice they could use dogs to their benefit. It was humans who have added and added conditions to the contract and dogs have always met the new conditions with their best good-faith efforts. Dogs never ask for new conditions that might benefit them, their needs remain the same. When dogs can rise to our bidding, we can be grateful and if they can't we should not hold them to it.
I believe strongly in this and find it hard to stand by when I see a "breach of contract".
A recent hike revealed such a breach. While we were stopped for a break along the trail, a young hiker went tripping by us at a quick pace, his black lab padding along faithfully, off leash and a fair distance behind him, trying desperately to keep up. This dog needed a rest, a pause in the shade of one of the many trailside oaks, a drink of cool water. His human was failing to provide the basic contractual promises but the heartbreaking part for me was the look in the dog's eyes. He was driving forward, ever focused on his human, tho he had little left in the tank. The dog was giving everything he had to meet his end of the deal, companionship. If we could have caught up, I would have shared with the guy Winnie's water to give to his dog along with some perspective. The man and his dog disappeared around the bend, but I caught sight of them again as we neared the parking lot. They were gone before I had a chance to enlighten the guy.
In retrospect, I regret not trying harder to help that lab, but I am even more committed and proud to know I am honoring the ancient contract when I look into Winnie's trusting eyes.
I wish for each of us who enter into this contract with our dogs to keep them safe, comfortable, and loved much success. I have faith and trust I will see right away when I am falling short and hope that if I miss something, there will be someone in the community of fellow contract holders to remind me. I also hope that if that happens, the reminder will be presented with compassion and tack.
If anything should be added to the contract humans have with dogs, it should be this: Along with keeping dogs safe, comfortable and loved in exchange for companionship, we, the humans, agree to be gently made aware by fellow contract holders of any digressions and vow to make it right. Let us also all agree to remind those who don't even know there is such a contract how truly important it is. The contract is as old as time and still true and binding. If you sit with a dog on a hillside and allow yourself to look back to the beginning of time, I know you will find in Eden there is both humans and dogs, and a copy of the contract.