I\’ve spent the last couple of weeks in the serene presence of Bisou\’s litter-mate, Theo, the black-and-tan Cavalier puppy who went to live in Montana with my daughter and her partner shortly after we got Bisou.
Theo has saved me from going into acute dog withdrawal while we\’ve been in Missoula. Two weeks is a long time to be away from one\’s dogs, especially for someone with my monastic existence, who worries if she\’s out of the house for more than four hours. At the same time, Theo has prompted much philosophical reflection on nature, nurture, and the mysteries of dogs in general.
I\’m a little worried that, having experienced the ultimate Zen dog, I will not find it easy to readjust to his red sister\’s frivolities and intensities. As I write this, Theo is stretched out in the arm chair that has been consecrated to his use, with his chin resting on his little blue stuffed lamb. He is not asleep. He is gazing at me. But it is a calm, accepting, present-in-the-moment gaze that says \”you are there; I am here; all is well.\” And so I am able to continue writing.
If his sister were on that chair, awake and by some miracle lying still, it would be a very different story. For one thing, the lamb would have long ago been torn to shreds. She too would be gazing at me, but there would be no calm or acceptance in her gaze. Instead, it would be full of frantic hope and attachment to worldly outcomes. I would see this out of the corner of my eye, knowing that if I looked her in the face she would catapult out of the arm chair and run to the back door and pant and moan and befoul the glass with her nose. And if I managed to ignore her she would leap up on the sofa and squeeze herself under my elbow, causing many typos, before subsiding with a great guilt-inducing sigh.
It\’s not easy to write with a dog under your elbow and waves of guilt engulfing you. My Muse is leery of dogs–my dogs at least. But she\’s not afraid of Theo, which is why I\’ve managed to do a lot more writing (not just on this blog, but on my CFS manuscript as well) in Missoula, Montana, than I normally do in West Pawlet, Vermont.
Bisou, Bisou, why can\’t you be more Theo-like? Your father Denzil, whom unfortunately you\’ve never met, covered himself with glory on the agility field. To do that you have to be able to stop thinking about yourself all the time and pay attention. You and Theo both have his genes. Fling, your mother, who for good reason growls at you whenever she sees you, gave you and Theo the same responsible upbringing. So why the difference?
Some have thought that it\’s the color of your hair that makes you the way you are, but that seems a little, well, racist. That leaves one major variable: me. All the dogs I\’ve ever had, no matter what breed, have been intense. All the dogs I\’ve ever had have interfered with my writing. Which leads me to speculate that I have caused my dogs be to intense and demanding in a twisted ploy to keep myself from writing.
But you won\’t get off the hook that easily, Bisou. These days with Theo have shown me that it is possible to get quite a bit of writing done in the presence of a dog. So hurry up and calm down, and stop scaring my Muse away.
Subconsciously, we really do influence our dogs. I find that mine pivks up on my vibes quite easily. He reads my moods like a book. Wearinh him out with long walks seems to help a lot in wearing out his over enthusiasm.
I have never known another Cavalier quite like Bisou. She seems to have received every single bit of the available genes for intensity in her litter, and that left five other relatively mellow litter mates. I feel a little guilty about that! But in her defense, she DOES pay attention — too much attention. Surely, she will get better with age (she says hopefully)… Most reds do age well, don't they?
Um, as to my mother's last question, no comment. I have two – one perfect buddah dog and one demanding, intense, passionate, destructive little darling ruby girl who is the love of my life. And she is just like me – each moment when I catch myself on the verge of an emotional storm at yet another carefully designed plan laid awry through her precise and undeniably purposeful actions, I realize that this canine mirror of my less-than-perfect self is a blessed opportunity to practice compassion – with her, with myself, and with the fact that we can not hope to control our environments. And I have learned more about buddhism from that than I have from my perfect dog's implacable contentment.
Irene, I think you're right, although to wear out Bisou I'd have to be an olympic marathoner!
Alix, I ADORE Bisou, as you well know! Theo was the perfect canine vacation for me. He allowed me to recharge my batteries so I can deal with his sister with renewed energy.
Whitney, it sounds like you think color does have something to do with temperament–I guess that lets me off the hook as far as having made Bisou the way she is. I think we should send some compassion towards Alix, who gets to take care of these irrepressible rubies.
i love how each dog has a distinct personality, evident with only a little study.rosie wolverine is more like bisou than like theo, i fear.
But Rosie has youth as her excuse!