Last night, after a longer than normal day of work and meetings and just “stuff”, I opened my front door to let my dogs outside. Being uncomfortably familiar with my old dog, Diego’s, digestive patterns, I knew we were treading in some dangerous waters. For this reason I was surprised when I opened the door and had to call for him to come downstairs. Normally, he is waiting desperately panting and prancing at the door trying to hold things together. This night was peculiar. He sulked his way down the stairs and seeing his head hanging while very deliberately avoiding any eye contact with me, I knew the score.
As I walked up the stairs I saw the first signs confirming my suspicions. Shredded napkins, broken eggshells and pork rib bones told the story of his dumpster dive. Entering the kitchen, all doubt and hope was erased. The garbage can was tipped over and picked through with the indelicate touch of a frenzied badger. Thoughts of simply killing my dog entered my head. Then, they left…much quicker than normal. Weird.
Usually, I hold a grudge. The fact that I say “usually” indicates that this is not the first time my dog and I have danced to this song. Diego has tormented me for years. His exploits in digging, escaping our yard, stealing, chewing, farting and otherwise disrupting the simple, happy existence I try to live is a truly impressive catalogue.
In the past, his indiscretions were met with swift and clear justice. Cause and effect. He knew the price of his choices and apparently was willing to pay it. He owns no poker face and his body language speaks louder than words. I can always tell when he has been up to something devious. And I’ve responded. That’s what’s strange about this evening.
After letting him outside and surveying his damage, I did nothing besides clean up his mess. This surprised both of us. As I opened the door to let him back in the house, he sat in the rain at the edge of the driveway reluctant to meet his consequences. I called him and he sat. Eventually, I had to move his direction to force his hand. He crept towards me tensely anticipating his punishment which never came. I just didn’t have it in me.
I don’t know where my need for vengeance has gone, but it’s gone. My only explanation is that I’m old. Diego’s old, too. We have played this game many times and are just weary of it. He’s my buddy and I’m his buddy and for all my bluster, he knows it. I know it, too.
At a certain age, dogs and men simply stop caring about stuff that seemed important when we were younger. No meaningful outcome will come from punishing Diego these days. He doesn’t care. The tasty rib bones are worth the risk and he’ll accept whatever comes his way. There is no way to fight this. He wins. And I’m ok with that. We seem to have achieved an uneasy truce. In this truce, there is truth.
Diego and I have shared life. Like all relationships, we have battled and struggled and loved. Tired of the battles and struggle, all that’s left now is love. The clear and present fact of our mutual mortality softens us. There are more days behind us than ahead of us and this knowledge is liberating. Time has a unique way of defining priorities. We care less about some things and more about some other things. This is true for men and dogs…and probably everything else, too…
[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, whose first book is called “A Feel Good Life” (buy it on Amazon here). Dave also extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland Fitness]