Take a look at the photo: Buddy, fixated on the fountain in our yard. The object of desire, one of the pine chipmunks that dash from den to water, running the gauntlet of hawks, owls, coyotes and often, my dog. Buddy seldom succeeds, but there is always the chance.
I’m reminded of the quote from Ortega y Gassett about the prospect of killing being the difference between a hunt and a saunter in the field. Does the prospect of catching that chipmunk feed Buddy’s obsession? I believe so.
But ambushing a small rodent isn’t the only motivator for Buddy’s steely long-distance gaze and Buddha-like pose. It’s more than that.
Have you noticed your dog’s version? You park in the convenience store lot, he unflinchingly stares at the door you went in, knowing, hoping, willing your return through the same cruel magic portal that took you away from him. Duck hunters see it in the blind: a deep, almost physical longing for dots to appear in the sky.
Dogs are buoyed by an assurance that something, we don’t know what, will happen. But when it does, they hope we will share it with them and vice-versa. There is a Zen to that longing, but dominating even that is inordinate hope, belief, deep-down fundamental feeling. And a patience that only predators manifest. The knowing. Just wait.
Most times, we see it when we leave them. For work, where the last thing they see is the gate clanking shut. Often, they are watching the latch when our truck crunches on the gravel drive and we are home again. Sigh. Wag tail. Jump up and down. Yip. (Is that where “yippee” came from?)
Or to bed, when the crate door creaks closed. I lie in bed and feel him watching, hopefully, through the metal squares, counting the seconds, minutes, hours until the door springs screech freedom and we are back together.
I wish I had their patience, the wisdom of knowing something good will happen. Some time.