If reincarnation exists …

  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Focal Length: 105mm
  • ISO: 640
  • Shutter: 1/800 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D80

Northport, Alabama

I’m coming back as a dog.

There’s a joke that goes like this:

8:00 AM Dog Food! My favorite thing!
9:30 AM A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 AM A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 AM Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 PM Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 PM Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 PM Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 PM Milk bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 PM Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 PM Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 PM Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

And it’s true. Cowboy wakes up ecstatic and stays that way all day long. He could run for hours and never tire, which makes him well-suited to the cattle herding for which he was bred. There’s only one problem — the last time I checked, there were no Herefords in my backyard.

So today I found the next best thing in a dog’s world — toddlers. My friends, Shawn and Maranda, kindly loaned their two boys and fenced backyard to the pup for the afternoon, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him more happy. Aidan (pictured top right) and Brendan chased him and threw balls for him and gave him the time of his life, and I can’t explain how happy that made me.

It sounds weird, but in some odd way, I have this feeling I suspect must be very close to what parents feel. I haven’t had it with my cats, perhaps because they’re so fiercely independent. Even as kittens, cats don’t require much. A clean litterbox, a bowl of water, some cat chow, and they’re good to go. You don’t even have to buy fancy catnip toys for them — cats make their own amusements.

Dogs are different. They require such a commitment emotionally, physically, financially. Cowboy depends on me for his every need, and all day long I have to stay attuned to where he is and what he’s doing. He puts everything in his mouth. So far I’ve caught him with the following: a USB cable, check stubs, cigarettes, a prayer book, sticks, rocks, a Taco Caso cup, straws, leaves, algae, chunks of concrete, flower petals, pens, bottle caps, and of course, the requisite slippers and socks. Yesterday, I tethered him in the grass while I sat on the porch and wrote, and I looked down and realized he was chewing off all the lower sucker branches of my camellia. It kept him quiet, so I let him do it.

I find myself talking obsessively about my dog. I try to curb it, but… I never had children. Never will. And when he looks at me, I see this depth of devotion, this longing — love me, touch me, spend time with me, hold me, pet me, give me, please. And I want to give that to him. To make his life the happiest, most fulfilling life any dog has ever had. I feel obligated to learn as much as I can, to be the best I can be, to protect him from the world. I feel terribly inadequate. I fear I’ll make a million mistakes. I fear he’ll crumble beneath my hands if I love him too much.

I’m used to things I love being taken away. It’s hard to give myself over. And yet — I have. It’s a scary feeling. All so strangely new. And the strangest part of it all is… I think I like it.

Favorite shot today: Jacksonville Sunset at Mark My Shots

Music: Maybe It Was Memphis by Pam Tillis (lyrics)

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