Learning from Dogs
Adjusting back to Devon life upon his return from California could have been so much worse if Philip didn’t have that first meeting with Jonathan to look forward to.
The flight back to London had been uneventful and as soon as he had taken a taxi from Totnes Station across to Diana and John’s place, to pick up his car, he was off to Sandra’s to collect his beloved Pharaoh.
While that night flight home from Los Angeles was always a bit rough on the body, the morning arrival did allow most of a full day back in England. The thought of waiting another day to see Pharaoh was unbearable.
As he pulled into Sandra’s parking area and opened the car door, the sound of the many dogs staying at Sandra’s kennels greeted his ears. He hadn’t even had time to close his door when Pharaoh came bounding across to him, tail wagging furiously. If ever a dog could put a smile on its face, and Philip had no doubt that dogs could smile, Pharaoh was wearing the biggest dog smile ever.
Philip sat on the ground and received a rapid succession of face licks. As soon as he stood up and opened both the car’s tail-gate and the door to the travel cage, Pharaoh gave one giant leap into the open cage, turned around and was indicating in very clear dog speak, ‘Dad, take me home, now!’.
He told Pharaoh to wait while he went across to settle up with Sandra.
“Did you have a good time in California?”
“Thanks Sandra, yes a great time. Feel almost ready for what’s facing me these next few months.”
He paused before asking, “Tell me, Sandra, how’s Pharaoh been?”
“He was fine. Same as he always is. It’s almost as though he knows that he isn’t here for ever and that you will come back for him. In fact, it must have been over half-an-hour ago that Pharaoh was telling me, in the way some dogs do, that you were on your way to collect him.”
“Wow! Sounds as though that was around the time I picked up the car from my sister’s place and starting heading your way.”
He continued. “Sandra, the reason I asked about how Pharaoh is with you is that I have been invited to spend next Christmas with good friends at their house in Northern Mexico.”
Sandra’s face showed that she was uncertain where Northern Mexico was.
“It’s a place called San Carlos, about a couple of hundred miles south of the border with Arizona but there’s a good airport quite close by. What I have been thinking, Sandra, is that being away from Devon over the holiday period might stop me getting all caught up in the memories of last Christmas. But if I was to go, it would be for the thick end of a month and there’s no question of me going if Pharaoh wasn’t going to be happy and settled here with you.”
Sandra’s reply was immediate. “Philip, I’m usually very quiet over the Christmas period with most dog owners wanting their dogs with them at home, for obvious reasons. So not only would I be able to give Pharaoh extra attention but during the day I could take him for a walk around our local woods and have him in the house as well.” Sandra hesitated before continuing, “Of course, I wouldn’t have him sleep in the house overnight, might start to confuse him as to whether or not this place was becoming his new home. So, what I’m saying is that it wouldn’t be a problem for me or Pharaoh in the slightest.”
“Thanks Sandra, you are good to him, and to me. Thank you so much.”
Philip was soon over at Upper Holsome Farm and as he parked up, about to let Pharaoh out and take his travel bags over to the flat, Liz came up to him.
“Thought it was you. How was it? Did you have a good time?”
“Thanks, Liz. Yes, it was a great time. Gave me a real break from the stuff of the last few weeks and months.
“So pleased to hear that. I took the liberty of putting some fresh milk and bread in your refrigerator. Thought you wouldn’t want the hassle of newly moving in and not having any food in the place.”
“Oh Liz, that was kind of you. Yes, apart from going to collect his nibs”, Philip lifted the tail-gate of the car and opened Pharaoh’s cage. “I had no other thought than to get back here and rest up after what feels like two days of solid travelling.”
Pharaoh had a quick sniff of Liz’s outstretched hand and went off to check out all the new smells and scents around the place.
“Liz, while it’s in my mind, I’ve been invited to go and spend Christmas with good friends in Northern Mexico. I’ve checked with Sandra over at the kennels and she is confident that Pharaoh will be happy with her. Because, I’m thinking of being away about a month.” He immediately added, “Of course, I’m not asking for any rent relief for the month and I’m happy to have you use the flat if you are expecting guests over the Christmas period.”
“Philip, come on now! I’m not putting anyone else in the flat while you are paying me rent and having your things there. When you have firm dates for your Christmas trip let me know; I’m sure you would have done so in any case.”
With that, he took his belongings across to the flat, still familiar to him back from the time when he was living here before he and Maggie moved in to the Harberton barn. For Pharaoh, however, it was another new place to check out. He left him sniffing around the flat and went out to lock the car. When he returned to the flat, less than two minutes later, and went into the bedroom, there was Pharaoh curled up in the bottom half of his open suitcase. As if to say that the next time Philip left Devon he’d better take his dog with him. What a dog. What a relationship.
Later that evening, as the two of them were resting after both a human dinner and a dog supper, his mind came back to the relationship that he had with Pharaoh. Of course, it was well known that dogs loved unconditionally. But the phrase love unconditionally was too trite, too obvious. What was the deeper meaning behind those words? He went on to ponder that it must be so much more than that. The closeness of the companionship, the easy way that Pharaoh signalled his feelings to Philip, the purity of those feelings. What was the word Jonathan had used about feelings? Transparency. Of course! Yes, the transparency of Pharaoh’s feelings; that was it. He continued reflecting on the incredibly ancient relationship that had existed between dogs and man. At least thirty-thousand years and, quite probably, as far back to Neanderthal times fifty-thousand years ago.
If only us humans could live so simply and straightforwardly as dogs. For example, take how dogs live in the present for the vast majority of their lives. Think what that would mean for humans if we stopped deliberating about the future in the way that most us do. Not so much deliberating about the future, more like worrying about the future. The fear that this must engender because the future is so often an uncertain one.
Philip was sure that if humans could live as fully engaged in the present, making the the best of each moment, as dogs so clearly do, then we would live a much more uncluttered life. Uncluttered in the sense of being unburdened by the many complex fears and feelings that we humans so often seem to have. Let’s face it most of the time our fears never actually turn into reality. Millions of people loving millions of dogs in the world, untold numbers of close relationships between people and dogs, and we are all missing the most profound lesson of all to be learnt from these wonderful animals. That if we stopped obsessing about the future, turned down the noise of the outside world, we would have a chance of some silence and mental space. For it is only from that silence within us that we can become aware of ourselves. How that self-awareness allows us to better cope with the uncertainty around us, and more to the point, offers us greater happiness. Now that would have profound implications for society.
1,453 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover