I don’t know what a session with a guru sets you back, but it’s got to be considerably more than my dog got last week for showing me how to go through life.
All poor Jack got for the tail-wagging profundity he revealed to me before breakfast was the right to lick the cutting board clean after dinner once the carne asada tacos were gone. A huge treat as far he was concerned, but the poor thing has no idea what the market would bear.
A taco of his own, at least. Maybe even bacon.
It was on our walk through my neighborhood when I figured out that Jack had it all figured out.
Rule one: Act like you know what you’re doing.
We don’t often take the same route twice, so Jack’s still learning his way around his neighborhood. Still, I have to leash him up before I open the door, otherwise he’ll bolt outside as soon as he sees his opening. He doesn’t know where we’re going, but he doesn’t see that as any reason to slow down.
Although I mostly point him where I want to go, once in a while he gets to choose which way we head from a crossroads. There’s no reason to trust the judgment of someone who gobbles up flip-flops and leftover pork chops with equal relish, but sometimes it just feels right to turn over the reins to a dog who’s charging forward with that much confidence.
Rule two: Don’t give in to whatever it is behind you that’s trying to tangle you up.
Jack gets a good 6 feet of leash to pause and check out anything interesting we come across, and he’s good at getting it wrapped around a leg or two. But the little guy doesn’t pay it any attention. The leash can be woven through his armpit, wrapped over a shoulder or keel-hauled down his belly, and on he goes oblivious.
If I want to stop and untangle him, fine. Otherwise, he’s not going to let anything trip him up.
Rule three: Enjoy mementos, but don’t let them weigh you down.
Lately Jack’s been picking up a rock as we head down our driveway. A souvenir of home if we don’t make it back? Whatever his reason, it seems important to him.
But he barely looks back when it falls from his mouth. Maybe it serves its purpose by reminding him for a few dozen yards that somewhere back there is a bag of treats and an unchewed flip-flop. Whatever the case, he won’t let a lost piece of his past slow down whatever surprises might lie ahead.
Rule four: Strangers usually give you a good idea right off the bat how you should treat them.
Jack seems to be a fair judge of character for someone who’s stuck observing the world from a foot and a half off the ground. As near as I can tell, that’s because he sorts everything that moves into three categories.
If it’s big and barreling toward you, dodge it. Yeah, maybe it wants to play, but it could just as easily mow you down. It’s too risky to try to engage with someone who doesn’t appear to have any concern for you.
If it stops and coos at you, it’s worth a cautious approach to see if maybe you have something to offer each other. A scratch behind the ears in exchange for a tail wag? That’s a good deal a pup doesn’t want to pass up.
If it dashes away as soon as you’re in view, you better chase it down. A robin taking flight, a squirrel running up a tree or a dry leaf on the wind all get pursued. Maybe they’re innocent, but Jack seems to want to find out for himself if they have something to hide.
Maybe they do. Like I say, Jack looks like he knows what he’s doing.
Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.