Jane and I had a nice chat on the phone yesterday, something we don’t do often enough, I’m afraid. We tried to catch up, compare notes on parents’ meds, yak about books out, Skinny Daily Plans (oh the plans!). And as always we end on the subject of our dogs. We love our dogs. Her Maggie. My Stafford and Charlie.
At the beginning of the day, at the end of the day, my dogs are there, reminding me that I work to put a roof over their heads and a down comforter under their bellies, and organic food in their bowls. And these are good reasons to work. They really are. They are good reasons because dogs make good teachers. If you haven’t received any of the overly cc’d emails recounting all the bits of wisdom dogs have to offer us, then you must not be reading this. I am convinced they come bundled into operating systems.
So while the world doesn’t need me to add to the canon of dog wisdom literature, this is a blog, darn it, a genre that celebrates the unnecessary word, the mundane, the redundant. I love this genre precisely because saying what doesn’t need to be said over and over again is just what we celebrate. It is the genre of the human condition. And we humans love our doggies.
Lately I’ve been contemplating just how self-punishing we seem to be, we people who worry about our weight. I finally listened to audiotapes of The Da Vinci Code (I couldn’t read the book, but I could listen to it — perfect for knitting to), and became interested in the poor Albino monk, Silas’ “Pain is Good” mantra. His self mutilation. I know it’s not EXACTLY the same thing, but I’ve been comparing his discipline to some of my dieting behaviors — the way I have forced myself to wear pants that are too tight or have allowed myself groggy days after a night when my hunger was so painful, I couldn’t sleep, or days when through over-exercise I have shin pain that makes it hard to hear what other people are saying to me. One of our commenters a few days ago, who shares the same behaviors, has been told she has bulimic tendencies. That really caught my attention. How much of my maintenance behaviors waft over into abuse? Into some sense that berating or belittling myself is appropriate discipline? Where is the delicate balance between a healthy self discipline and self loathing? Is discipline even a word I should use any more? That word just makes me flinch.
And then there are my dogs. My dogs, left almost to their own devices, maintain healthy bodies. They eat well and regularly without guilt or comment. They really enjoy their food when they’re eating, and when they’re not, they are busy enjoying other things. Like napping. And squirrel watching. They exercise exactly as much as they need to and in ways that sustain their interest and promote their joy. (Charlie runs and runs, pell-mell, willy-nilly. Stafford moseys and sniffs.) They rest well, blissfully, without guilt, without anxiety. They allow others to admire them. They seek out affection and give it freely. They maintain a passionate interest in those things that interest them most. No regrets. No worries.
I’m going to be a dog when I grow up. It’ll take a lot of practice. But I’m going to get there. Got dogs? Got cats? Got kids? What can you learn about maintaining your body in a respectful way from them? Do tell…
Here are my princes.