Almost done dog/house-sitting, and have to say things have gone delightfully well. Amber has been a sweet & patient dream, and though her hearing is sadly not what it used to be, she intuits well-- very, very well, in fact-- and behaves pretty much perfectly. When I'm with her, she doesn't go very far from my side, which is almost unbearably adorable. She's also a trooper: no whining or acting up, except at play time, when the latter's surely to be encouraged in a dog her age. (It shows vitality.) So beyond the relatively minor inconvenience of shuffling from here to there, the whole thing's been good, and remarkably easy. Animals, I'm reminded, do tend to be very good with me-- Jeremy and his animals..., as an ex once said to a visiting relation-- and so also remind me how much I prefer animals to humans. Animals are never false or malevolent. They simply are. Treat almost any animal according to the Golden Rule, and it'll respond in kind--- most of the time. Certainly the case with the animals I've ever owned or cared for.
All this also reminds me of a (true) story. When I was doing my MA, I agreed to housesit for one of my professors, which entailed caring for three dogs, five cats and three horses. Trouble did half my work for me, renegotiating the relationships among the cats & dogs so he was at the top of their chain, first by humiliating all but the oldest and frailest of both species, and then defending them in a beautifully elder-centric reconstruction. (Trouble, like me, has a fondness for old animals.) The horses, however, were my concern. After several days with them, and many warnings from the owning professor, I found myself in a dilemma as I tried to get two of the horses, the alpha horse and the old-and-loony-and-likely-to-cause-me-no-end-of-grief horse, up a steep and badly iced-over hill. Lead the alpha, I was told advisorly, and the loon will eventually follow.
Let's see if you can guess what happened.
The alpha started to freak, and here I was, all 110-pounds of me, trying to get both these beautiful animals up that hill. It was the crazy old horse that stood there and stood there, I think trying to survey the situation. As I tried to calm the alpha, the old horse (I'm sorry, I have since forgotten their names, unfortunately) must have taken pity on me or something, and began the slow-- and rather treacherous-- march. He did so steadily, sedately, beautifully-- and on his own. Eventually the alpha, whom I was holding by the reins only very barely, followed her elder's lead. It was as if the loon had said to the alpha, "it's a rough night, let's not fuck around with him now." And he-- not me, really-- escorted both of them back to their stables, and I just guided the alpha and locked them in when they arrived.
(Is there an allegory for teaching assistants in there? Hmmmmm.... No comment.)
It was something deeply beautiful. The wacky horse with the propensity for jumping fences and causing trouble turned for me into the docile master when things were obviously grim. The alpha scared the hell out of me several times-- and worse, fell once and nearly fell another three times making that scale. (I assure you, there's precious little more terrifying than a horse falling on ice.) But the so-called loon, the one more ostensibly given to injury by the situation, proved stalwart, and thankfully commanding, else I'd have turned up somewhere like a frosty and unquartered Hector.
The moral of the story? (Is there one? ) Maybe it's that eccentric beasts prove themselves, or prove themselves the most stable, when least you might expect they would. Or maybe it's that the ones most champing at the bit can be the ones most capable of taking you-- and themselves-- down. Or maybe it's just a tale about horses, heaven forfend.
As for me, I saw more nobility in that wacky horse's steady climb in that one night than I'll probably ever see in any animal politics, human or otherwise. It was sublime. Old, more often than we care to think, is beautiful. And crazy is as crazy does.
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