I have been quietly mesmerized by the things your listeners believe. Sometimes I feel the weight of philosophical import in their words – sometimes just the everyday heft of lives and emotions bidden and unbidden. I have lived a fairly long and certainly eventful life full of all the experiences I could jam into it. Now things are quieting down, and I wonder what I truly believe after all the piling up of days and times.
This seems to be it – I believe in the importance of the sounds that dogs make.
I don’t necessarily mean the way they bark, although we all know these great woofs – the big galumphing bass-note bark, the yippery yelp, the howly bark(s) all strung together like one long run-on sentence. But I really mean the constant sounds – the comforting second-nature sounds that dogs make without even being aware of them — the long-suffering sighs, the wet snorts, the breathy chuffs, the papery snores.
There have always been dogs near me. I haven’t “owned” dogs, though; in fact, I have always belonged completely to them. They have held absolute sway over me, each in his or her own lovely way. I have noticed their sounds, but never quite in the way that I notice Chloe’s.
Chloe sleeps right with me, and, of course, she dreams. I hear an occasional muffled yelp or whimper as images wash over her of me or of Tuxedo, the Great Dane across the street, or of the spindly-legged heron who tantalizes her in the pond every afternoon as he slowly fishes for his dinner. I like the idea that she has her world of dreams just as I have mine – I wonder if I make sounds that make her stir and if she wonders what dreamy, herky-jerky worlds I visit.
Chloe frequently indulges in a maddeningly prolonged self-cleaning ritual – afterwards, she coughs, like a cat when hair gets in its mouth. Her preferred bath-lick is just before dawn – I know when I hear that cough that it’s about 5:30 AM and time for me to begin to stir as well. She jumps up and buries her head into the pillows and blankets next to me, snorting and sneezing and slobbering and ecstatically rolling on her back, legs flailing in an absolute carpe diem moment. It’s hard to think of waking up any other way.
I love the way Chloe eats. Chloe is a fairly delicate eater, but she can lick her lips with the best of them. She’s a beggar, too – the soulful eyes, the chin resting lightly on my knee, the occasional rustle to draw my attention back as she whimpers ever-so-softly just to be sure she hasn’t been forgotten in her stillness. After she eats, I listen then for the sound of her tongue in her water bowl or the wild crackling of her ice cubes as the pieces snap off and fly away like sparks from a fire.
The most mournful sounds are those she makes when she knows I am in the getting-ready-to-leave mode. She plops herself down in plain view where the eye-rolling can begin. Her tail thumps if I look at her, but mostly it’s the sighing – one long, grunting, groaning sigh after another. I think about those sighs as I go through my day, sometimes languishing through a self-indulgent sigh of my own. I wonder if she keeps on sighing even after I’m gone. Later, I wait impatiently for the sound of her feet thumping across the carpet and for the wiggly slapping of her tail against the door as I bustle in and scrunch her ears and face in my hands.
Without my Chloe-sounds there would be an emptiness in my life, a stillness that nothing else could quite fill. The sounds that dogs make truly are important.
This I believe.
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