My kids were learning recently about natural disasters and the conversation led to the wonder of how animals often sense disaster coming before humans have a clue. It’s a fascinating demonstration of how instinctively in tune with the larger world they are - and, inversely, how out of tune we often are.
I recalled for them the horrible 2004 Indonesian tsunami and the stories of how the animals all ran to higher ground well before the waves arrived and all but wiped that part of human civilization off the map. I had never conceived of such a disaster, nor such a response. Both are still difficult to fathom.
While certainly different, 2020 has been a natural disaster of its own - both the Covid part, and the lack of early competent response from humans (the incredible feat of the vaccine is the hopeful counterpoint to the absurdity of people’s fighting over wearing a mask). This year, humans have demonstrated an entirely new capacity to be out of tune with themselves and the world around them.
I’ve been a bit lost and dismayed about this reality - how humanity has shown its ass this year and what that means for the future (again, a strong counterpoint thankfully provided by our teachers, nurses, and doctors). As I was mulling this yesterday, I just happened to be following my dog who was pulling ahead of me as I took him on a walk to the post office. He doesn’t know what the post office is.
Now, I know dogs aren’t exactly the top of the animal kingdom and that our domestication of these sweet animals has certainly made them dumber and less naturally capable, but certainly more loving and lovable. Domestication has had a similar impact on me.
Yes, he sniffs the greasy base of a fire hydrant and the still-glistening blades of monkey grass as if he were delving into the depths of quantum physics.
Yes, he’ll roll over and unabashedly lick his private parts whenever the need strikes and regardless of who else is around.
Yes, he actually stepped square into another dog’s poop as I was on my way back home to write this post.
But, this dog is in tune with something greater, I swear.
Today, as I turned left onto South 11th Street, about 30 yards down, he started pulling me out into the road, seemingly wanting to cross to the other side. Turns out, he knows where Bongo Java is and is apparently deeply in tune with my coffee needs. He was pulling me to the coffee shop.
“Not today, Fitz. We are heading to the Post Office. But, thank you for the offer.”
On our way back from the Post Office, we were walking along the South side of Woodland Street, and again, the dog starts pulling me out into the road, seemingly wanting to cross the street.
“What the hell are you doing, Fitz!? There are cars!”
And, then I realized that we were approaching Woodland Wine Merchant on the other side of the street. He was pulling me to the liquor store.
“Not, today, Fitz…well…OK…if it means that much to you.”
Returning home with a happy dog and a bottle of bourbon, I felt one with nature. It’s gonna be OK.
My dog understands 2020 and coffee and bourbon and me. It’s really pretty amazing and profound - that deep animal instinct and intuitive connectedness.
Also, both Bongo Java and Woodland Wine Merchant offer complementary dog treats when you visit, but that probably doesn’t have anything to do with it.