vendredi 22 octobre 2010

The incredible sweetness of dogs

Growing up, growing closer

It is incredibly sweet to watch Rapide lower her head to accept the caresses and care of Fia's little tongue, cleaning Rapide's eyes, her ears, becoming playful, her very small and still pointier teeth nibbling at the loose folds of skin at Rapide's neck, and then to watch Rapide press her muzzle against that very small dog, a baby, and work if down the length of her body, sniffing, taking in Fia's scent as though to memorize her.

Fia, in this way I will know you, and I will always be able to find you when you are not near, or when you stray.

What do we know of dogs and of their hearts, I wonder. What did Rapide feel when she left Trevira with Baccarat and came here to live? Did she feel the happiness my husband imagined for her when he said "Oui, on la prendra aussi" in answer to the breeder's offer to have the mother, as well, for the price of her daughter? And when Baccarat was lost to us, did Rapide know of her death? Did she know that she must die, knowing that she was so sick? Some have said to me that dogs can smell cancer. I hope that Rapide could smell cancer, and I hope that this means that they can smell the approach of death and set themselves to the idea of loss else it is too terrible a surprise. Now, this little one has left her mother, Camée, and her brothers and her sisters, and come to live with us and this mother, Rapide, who lost her daughter.

"Elle n'a jamais été malheureuse," remarked my husband, and I wondered at him. Ought she have been unhappy in so short a life? "Je veux dire, elle n'a jamais pleuré depuis qu'elle est venue."

Ah. I understood. He was saying that he had expected her to feel sad to leave what she had known, the warmth, companionship and comfort of her own mother and fratrie, but she had not shown any signs of this, and it was true: she had not. She had gotten into the car on her own, like she had been doing it every day of her young life, and rode away with Sam and I, content. She sat at my feet and looked around, up out the window at the sky and the treetops, the buildings high enough for her to see when we passed through villages and skirted cities. And, she got out of the car and came straight in to meet her new companions, her new life, and settled right in as though she had fully expected it all to be just that way.

No, Fia never has felt sad, and she and Rapide have been playing at my feet the last half hour without stop, as engaged in one another as though this little dog came from Rapide and had always been hers. I have not had many dogs in my life, and so nearly everything is a discovery to me. Maybe it is always this way for a bitch who was comfortable being mounted and cared with great patience and tenderness for her puppies. This was what her breeder had told me, and I have never seen anything to indicate that this is not absolutely true. She might have lacked elsewhere, but not in this. Camée is the same. Perhaps it is not always true for such a dog, but it is so with Rapide, and Fia enjoys the full benefit of human and canine attention and care, as well as knowing already how, at just 11 weeks of age, to offer it herself.

I like to say that she is in the TAG program for crate and house training, but it is more than that. At 9 to 10 weeks, Fia would sit if I told her "assis". Granted, her hindquarters did not stay on the ground for long. That's fine. That will come. They already do a little more now. She is learning that to have her leash removed, she must sit, and that "okay" means she is free to leave my feet. Not that she is really waiting, yet, but while she is busy scratching at her collar after sitting, I say "okay" (to give her the idea of the business to come), and she scampers to race me to the door, or to catch up with Rapide, if she has come out with us.

I have learned one very important thing: the dog trainers are right when they say to work with your dog alone. Baccarat and Rapide were nearly never separated. Baccarat learned, but slowly, and she was distracted -- naturally -- by Rapide's unbridled presence. I had decided not long after her arrival that she was as thick as the French Toast made of slabs of Challah bread on the Lower East Side and didn't pursue her further development and education. Of course, I realized once Baccarat was gone that Rapide, too, was capable of learning more than anyone had ever taught her, which amounted to never enter a door before anyone else, never get in anyone's feet if you can possibly help it, and never touch anyone else's food bowl, most particularly not the cats', and always walk on the sidewalk, if there is one available.

Now, I take Fia out alone to relieve herself and to teach her the routines and basic commands. I ask for and receive her attention. I call her back to me, even when she is on leash and trying to tug to head where she wants to go, and she comes. Off leash, I call her, and she dashes to me as though Usain Bolt were about to show her up. Again. I reward her with caresses and cuddles and murmurings, and she turns those eyes up to me to look into mine.

"Elle a l'allure de Baccarat," said Audouin, looking at a picture of her one eye looking up at me through the bars of her gate. She does.

He is less prone to seeing what he wishes to, in his opinion, but who knows. Perhaps we are both seeing what every dog owner sees. I'd believe it, but that's not what they told me at the Ecole nationale vétérinaire d'Alfort when Baccarat was there and the doctors, interns and the students told me that she had a remarkable expressiveness in her eyes. A look from Baccarat spoke paragraphs, or very pregnant sentences. I wonder if it is luck that this is true of Fia, or if it is because they do share bloodlines. I know that the best breeders do not consider only beauty, they work to maintain the disposition and the character of the breed, so perhaps it is not an accident. Sam and I had met another dog at the same breeder's, and she did not speak to us. The breeder mentioned the kennels in her bloodlines and then those of the little puppy she had brought to us. I heard the same dogs as Rapide and Baccarat, and Sam got out my camera. We would take her, but was it a form of superstition, or was the reason for our preference well-founded?

Who knows the truth of all of these things, except to see that mourning has no set time period, and protracting it has no particular value. You do not replace a dog, but you do not live with a hole in your life either, when absence speaks only of the pain of loss and brings more sadness. You can bring another being into your life for which to care and to teach and to let her make you laugh with delight and smile upon one another to share it.

Regards! Rapide joue avec elle!

Regards! Elle dort avec Rapide!

Regards! Shadow l'a laissée venir dormir avec elle!

Regards! Elle est assez grande maintenant de boire du bassin!

Regards ce regard précieux. On dirait Baccarat.

Oui, on dirait Baccarat
, but we are loving Fia, while remembering and loving Baccarat still.

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