If you go into the woods with dogs you are hunting. Well, they think you’re hunting, and there are some dogs who have that thing inside of them more acutely than other. Sam prowls anytime he puts one foot in front of another on the outside of the house. His instincts are sharp and true. Sam isn’t interested in sight seeing or just nosing around for the hell of it or playing with the other dogs. Sam is looking for prey animals, trespassers, interlopers, passer-byes, or anything else that might indicate the borders have been breached. Sam is a seventy pound fire ant.
Bert never killed anything until Sam did. Of The Three he’s the most self aware and the least likely to socialize with human beings. Sam and Lucas hang out together but mostly Bert stays alone by himself in some corner or in front of his bowl. He’s not antisocial he just isn’t social. He’s also the first to hammer down with his voice if a human comes near the house and he doesn’t bark very much at anything else. Of The Three, I think Bert is much more likely to defend me if something happens, but Lucas is showing sure signs of picking up some personality traits from Bert. It was Bert who trained Sam and now Lucas is becoming the dog that Bert was in his prime.
Lucas is the largest dog I have ever spent time with. He is lean and muscular and powerfully built. He’s the first dog I’ve owned I cannot lift easily. Lucas is fast, quick, and if anyone ever attacks me they better hope Lucas is in another area code or it’s going to get nasty. Puppy kisses, belly rubs and ear scrutches aside, when you are dealing with the better part of a hundred pounds of tame wolf you better be damn sure of the disposition. If you watch dogs hunt as a pack certain real and undeniable truths arrive quickly; if they ever decide to kill you then you will not stand a chance. Keeping large dogs, clearly, isn’t for everyone, but I would not live any other way and I never will again. If you wonder how a human being can trust an animal the size of a wolf and not worry then you have never rescued a stray. Unconditional love is their entire existence. You could not take that out of their nature anymore than you could teach them to fly. My bond with The Three is deeper than that of most families, and certainly deeper than that of the people who live in cities. They are more human than most people I know.
We were discussing hunting, I believe before I got off on a tangent, but I suspect an understanding of canines is needed to understand how it affects the mind. I’m accustomed to watching the dogs when we’re alone because their perception is sharper and cleaner than my own. They are not plagued with distraction as my mind is, and they’ve taught me to mistrust my senses and to trust theirs. Dogs have poor vision but they can hear ten times better than we can and their sense of smell is unerring. Maxium: If the dogs do not sense it then it is not real. I live by this rule.
Late one night I was walking in the woods with the dogs when giant creatures passed over the land like ethereal whales. They were a product of exhaustion, insomnia, bright moonlight and clouds, but I felt them as they passed over and through me. The dogs snuffled around in the woods, and never reacted but I felt the leviathans as they passed. It was a sensation much like I would think a desert dweller felt seeing a lake for the first time. I remember Bert looking up at me, sensing that I was experiencing something unusual, but his nose and ears do not lie. The world is, to the dogs, as it is, and they sleep better than we for it.
This morning I took the trash can out to the edge of the road and it irks me every time I do. I get charged the same as everyone else and I make this trip about once every forty days. Yet even though I throw away very little that is edible, fire ants have been known to make their home in the trashcan, so this morning I got tagged by a few of them. On the way to work I could feel them crawling on my arms and on my legs. But once at work when I could clearly see there were no ants, no stings on my legs, and only one or two on my hands from my first encounter with them from the trash can. My thirty minute commute was filled with crawly sensations that were as imaginary as positive results from Washington DC. At work, the same chemicals in my brain that filled my pants with ants also created shadows where there were none, and I thought I saw a small animal run under a parked truck. I walked over to where I thought it was, but there was nothing there. I saw the shadow clearly, I thought, but reality showed me something different.
At some time in our distant past, we befriended the wolf. I cannot but believe we did so because we admired the pack hierarchy and social order of these animals. I suspect we learned much from them in this. I also suspect their ability to create lasting bonds with one another, cemented by unconditional and undying love was a trait we could not help but be in awe of. Their ears and noses, along with their voices would alert us at night, and their ability to go from a bed warmer to a savage attacker in an instant is security unavailable in any other form. Yet it is their unwavering grip on reality that I depend on the most. I wonder, way back in our past, if this trait, this soundness of mind of theirs, did not attract a species whose ability to imagine so much more than reality, was grounded firmly by the ears, noses, and the love of the canines.