The Dogs Are Confused

The sports games shut down at night. The schools closed the following morning at 5:30 a.m.

We have a plague upon our houses.

With so much around us banned or discouraged, more people are at home more of the time. Litter from kids snacks clutters the landscape. Most of the neighborhood’s cars stay sleeping in their driveways. We don’t hear so many jet planes roaring overhead.

And the dogs are confused.

They know when they’re supposed to be walked. They know who has been near their turf, when that dog and walker came through and whatever they may have left as a calling card.

But now, people who used to walk their dogs before the sun came up, are sleeping late and taking different paths. From the way my dog behaves, the common calling-card locales have new aromas, some of them not so friendly.

I don’t know why some dogs adore each other, and others drop into a fighting crouch, growl, bark and pull on the leash. It probably has something to do with scent, size and atty-tood–the big German shepherds swaggering about, tossing off looks at the smaller dogs that say, “Watch it, kiddo. You could be my lunch.”

And yet, the smaller dogs, especially the Yorkies and Chihauhaus, have this manic urge to challenge anything on four legs, no matter how large or Teutonic: “How dare you even exist in my line of smell?! Why, if I wasn’t connected to this person,  tied to this person, in LOVE with this person who really has no idea what they would do without me, I’d have my teeth in your neck!”

I used to make a joke that it was all because of the last election. Or the election before that.

But elections have come and gone and people who genuinely couldn’t care less, now feel that they have a right to be as cruel as possible to other people, especially on the Internet. Until this coronavirus came upon us, people were sitting in chairs, in comfortable rooms, with too much food in their kitchens and too much time on their hands, writing all kinds of nasty, hateful, ugly and profoundly unAmerican stuff on-line because…

Why? I really don’t know.  Is it because other people–those in power, those with money and nice clothing, those who say things that make us mad–are better at being awful, than we are?

Or are we, on some level, dogs that imagine themselves part of a territorial pack, and it really doesn’t matter what our reasons are–we have to growl and get mad and challenge dogs in other packs because, on some other level, we think that all this growling and barking will impress the alpha dog, or, maybe, it just feels good to growl and bark when you’re tied to a human being who just doesn’t get it?

I don’t mean to belittle anyone with genuine grievances. Over my lifetime, I’ve seen things become better for some people and worse for others and, like a dog tethered to a human being, there are parts of what my dog and I might call reality that I just don’t understand.

For every person who has claimed that success equals hard work and a positive attitude, I’ve seen others who have worked–and hoped–just as hard, only to see their fortunes sink.

For every dog fed steak and walked five times a day, how many others get the dried junk from a sack and are lucky if they have a few minutes a day in the back yard?

What about the dogs that are abused and abandoned? What could they possibly do that would justify that?

Any single life lost to illness is horrific and catastrophic for those who cared for and loved that peson. Right now, the numbers of people who have died from this virus are small. No one knows how much those numbers will grow.

We can be certain that the numbers will grow.

It doesn’t matter who you are, what clothes you wear, what college you attended, how much money you make, who you pray to, what awful green smoothie you’ve had for breakfast, how many times you resist the urge to rub your eyes that are itching because it’s allergy season–

You can get it. And some of those who get it, die from it.

Right now, my dog is confused at all the other dogs being walked at different times by people she’s never sniffed before. Friend or foe, she wants to know.

And I’m confused by the people who insist on blaming others, finding fault, littering the Internet with their righteous rage, and otherwise getting mad because what was routine a few weeks ago, is now a matter of life and death.

I can think of only one thing beyond all the hand washing, elbow coughs and crowd avoidance that can lead you out from confusion:

You can love the fact that you’re alive, that you’re not alone, that you can help others in ways big and small. You can appreciate every moment you have in the sun.

And understand that, no matter how you voted in the last election, we really are in this together.

 

 

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