empathy of a dog
Sunday, September 28 2003
This morning I introduced Gretchen to a trail that runs parallel to the Stick Trail but downhill from it. This new trail goes as far as a spectacular dry waterfall and then runs into a steep embankment, at which point the only option is to go uphill and catch the Stick Trail. It makes for a short little loop when you want to walk the dogs but have somewhere to be and your day isn't open-ended (as it usually is for us, the idle rich - among the few rich people who haven't benefitted from a George W. Bush tax cut).
While we were out on the trail, Gretchen told me about last night, about the hours after I'd retreated to bed prematurely. The Noah disappearance thing had finally hit her with the full force of the loss it seemed to represent. The grim reality caused her to lay down on the carpet of her office, sobbing. She'd been afraid that the nature of his disappearance would never bring closure and she'd never be able to mourn appropriately, but something inside her told her it was time to cry and cry hard.
Then something unexpected happened. Eleanor saw Gretchen sobbing and immediately came over to comfort her, licking away the tears and lying close beside her for as long as necessary. Gretchen had read many stories about dogs being empathetic, but she'd never experienced much empathy from Sally. Empathy, it turned out, was Eleanor's thing. It was a wonderful discovery for Gretchen and greatly improved her impression of Eleanor. Up until this point when comparing Sally to Eleanor, the most obvious difference was Sally's noticeably greater intelligence. Gretchen was delighted to experience Eleanor manifesting a virtue that her other dog lacked.
I hadn't realized it before attending the Garlic Festival, but garlic might well be my favorite atomic (as in indivisible, not ultimate-bomblike) flavor. It's rare that garlic doesn't pull more than its weight in a dish, and it's even rarer for a dish to be damaged by the addition of yet more garlic. With this in mind, tonight I prepared a kind of legume-rich, corn-free succotash and flavored it with nearly-raw garlic that had been crushed before being diced. Both of us ate this concoction, and then neither of us could smell any garlic at all for the rest of the evening, except, perhaps, when one of us burped. The dogs and cats, however, must have been appalled. It was payback time for all the times they've rolled in rotting corpses and wolfed down piles of shit.
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