When I plan my day, I have the distant future imbeded in my peripheral vision. When I walk the dog, I look ahead of me down the side walk, and I march her along next to me, like a slave driver. She is good to me, my dog. She reminds me there are other directions. She will pull me off to the side, into the bushes for a while for a sniff. Over onto someone’s front yard. There’s a really good smell here, she pants. She curls into a roll. Rolling around in the smell. She’s living the good life right now. Pure exstasy. She averts my eyes from the tunnel ahead. But I know it’s still there. Even if my eyes aren’t staring straight at it, I can feel it in my skull, pulling me through it.
While we’re walking along, I reflect on the book I have been reading lately, called YOUR DOG IS YOUR MIRROR, THE EMOTIONAL CAPACITY OF OUR DOGS AND OURSELVES, by Kevin Behan.
It’s a sort of dog training manual, with a self-healing spin on it. It’s also ripe with metaphysics and electrical comparisons.
‘While there are many good reasons to own a dog, the real reason for the dog in our life is that it gives us the unparalleled opportunity to become conscious of the judgements, reflexive thinking, and instinctual patterns we impose on the world. By finding the message inherent in our dog’s behavior, we are, quite probably for the very first time, in a position to freely choose if these judgements continue to serve us, if in fact they ever did. Dogs are here to show us how our heart works, and the judgements we hold against it. They are here to bring us a choice. if we choose to let instinct and intellect run the show, we will do unto our dog what we most hated having done unto us; we will be passive relay nodes in the transmission of ‘the charge’. Or we can choose to be dynamic energy centers and resolve what’s unresolved within us by turning physical memory into new energy, a new way of seeing, interpreting, and handling our dog. Yes, our dog could be doing something to make us feel guilty, or this could simply be an opportunity to learn to work with ‘new energy’. Where does nature get new energy from? From old energy, the deepest, dankest, darkest stuff we’re carrying in our emotional batteries, deep inner stress.’
I meditate on this, and decide I want to talk about it with someone. Someone who will understand. I make plans to meet my friend Stacey for a dog walk, and bring along the book.
I meet up with a friend, Stacey, from roller derby, who is also now a dog walk friend. We were both Bambi’s on skates when we started in Raw Meat Roller derby training, and have graduated up to Fresh Meat training together, in order to try-out for teams and actually get to play the game. With a career that challenges societal gender norms as well, she drives heavy duty equipment. She also has a vast academia back ground in health care, mental health and other arts and sciences. A definite reader, if you catch the stereotype I am throwing her into. It’s no wonder we would find each other in an aggressive feminist sport. She’s really smart and has 2 dogs that sometimes run her rampant. Today she seems frazzled, and in response to this observation, I say;
‘They need you to be the path to ground for them Stacey’.
She looks at me and smiles. She thinks I’m an electricity nerd. I try to explain it better. I tell her about the book, and about dogs being balls of energy seeking ground.
‘I find it useful to imagine myself grounded and the connection I have with my dog, grounds out the dog. I guess it’s a sorta meta physical way of looking at it.’
As we walk along the off lease dog path by the river, following our galloping dogs, I can’t tell if she’s buying in or if she’s even listening. Then after a few moments of silence she says,
‘Tell me more of what you mean? Path to ground?’
I continue explaining.
‘This book I’m reading, is describing dog behavior as emotional in nature, and that emotion is a form of energy. Just like electricity, or magnets. And energy is simply moving around trying to find the path of least resistance to ground. I guess this really is a theory that can be used for all living things. He writes stuff like, all behavior is a function of attraction. Magnets leap to metal. Water seeks its own level, mass is drawn to mass. Electricity runs to ground. Everything in nature seems to just run on attraction, so of course animals must too right? Only for animals it’s an urge to ingest he says. Haha, he even uses the word emotosynthesis, like photosynthesis but for emotions get it? Hahahaha…’
‘Yes, yes. Uhummm.’
Replies Stacey. She is preoccupied with dogs. I can tell I’m loosing her interest. We’re at an off-leash dog park, but that does not excuse us from our dogs behaviors, and we so are easily distracted making sure they behave themselves here. Suddenly a squirrel darts past a pack of dogs and scamps up a tree. The group of dogs, mine and hers included chase the squirrel and stop at the base of the tree to bark and jump up at the squirrel in the tree, tails wagging, triumph. Deciding the dogs are fine, I continue on.
‘Oh yeah! And in the book there’s this really interesting part about predatorial hunting. Get this!’
I have the book on me so I open it to the parts I have dog eared and under lined.
‘He writes that ‘on every level of organization nature is a mirror that constantly causes energy to reflect back on itself’ in which the emotional conductivity can be communicated between species, especially between prey and predator.’ For example the squirrels and the dogs! ‘This shared energetic essence is a universal attractor and conductor of emotion, like copper wire is to an electrical current. Emotion is always concerned with the physical body or the earth. It arouses the animal’s urge to ingest.’
‘When a wolf is looking out at something, simultaneously and even more fundamentally it is looking within, to the energetic essence it shares with all other animals. The prey within is what it shares with the prey it hunts. The wolf chases on the outside what it feels on the inside. Nature is a mirror.’ ‘These behavioral scripts or group circuits are universal to all species, given that all animals experience hunger and have a physical centre of gravity.’ What do u think? Neat eh?’
I ask her.
‘I think maybe I will have to borrow that book when you are done with it’
‘It sounds a bit like synapses, what he is referring too. The electrical and chemical activity taking place in the human brain? Neurotransmitters are the chemical reaction that happens in neurons that start, stop and direct the electricity in cells. The electricity releases the chemicals. It’s all communication, the very essence of what we think and feel really. I don’t think very much is really known in western science about synapses. Probably other cultures are further advanced in their thinking. Here they do gross experiments on animals and pump humans with pill form chemicals to dull and change their synaptic responses. I take those. For depression. They make it so I don’t feel too strongly about anything at all, really. I’m just too sensitive.’
This was news to me, but not a shock I guess. I was glad to be let a little further into Stacey’s private life, and hear what she thought about it all.
‘I knew you would get this!’
I tell her, beaming.
‘Yes, well all I understand about the process, is that the pills I take change the chemicals in the neurotransmitters, which changes their muscle memory and function. Or rather, can reroute the currents up there. I think the little electrons are sorta like worker ants, and they do their duty however they remember or are guided. Memory and brain training are results of these synapses you know. I think synapses themselves are credited to creating memory itself actually. To creating memory storage. So depression is memory storage. Hence the term, ‘unpacking baggage’ in regards to seeing a shrink!’
‘You can change the way you look, but not the books you’ve read, not the books!’
I burst out singing. Stacey smiles at me.
‘Well don’t u have a nice voice’
she teases, then turns to the dogs,
‘alright pups lets’ play with this stick! Ready pups? Ready?!’
‘You can try to make a change, and then u can rearrange…’
I continued on with the song. Then stop to explain myself, while she throws the stick for the dogs to go fetch. I realize she might feel insulted as though I am trivializing what she is saying by changing the subject, but I’m trying to express to her an appreciation for what she is saying.
‘It’s a Lispector song Stacey, I think it’s sorta like what you are talking about. Well the songs not about that but, those lines in the song might as well be. Depression happens when your worker brain ants lose their way from where the whole colony is going, and need to relearn how to get back on track. It’s the whole positive mental health thing. I think that’s what you’re saying. There’s the altering the chemicals part, but if you really want change, you’ve got to re-arrange what’s in your brain there. Assess the damages, imprint new circuits. All the synapses are in the dogs too, they’re just doing what their worker ants do, and dog training is essentially re-routing the ants too.’
‘I guess that’s one way to put it.’
‘I guess people like me find the whole ant colony has just fucked up too much and needs to be wiped completely out! Hahahaha! Gas the little fuckers! Ahahaha!’
She laughs out loud at her personal bittersweets. I laugh along with her but decide then to let the whole thing drop.
‘I think the ants are doing better than they know’.
I say, as I let the dogs pull me into their dog games.
‘They at least haven’t let the colony lose its’ sense of humor’
I tease. We give each other grateful smiles and then turn our full attention to the wonderful beasts of dog park land.
Interspecies mingling is a wonderful thing, I think to myself. I’m satisfied with our conversation and decide I need to turn off my brain and delve into dog play time, where Stacey is also happy to disappear into. We get at least four sticks going in this fun game of fetch until the sun starts to set.