Saturday, February 25, 2006

Two Months on the Road and A Lot to Learn

The Credible Connections
Winter Tour is two months old and I've returned home for
a couple of days to reload. Kelly was waiting at the
gate yesterday along with our eight dogs and a new
foster, "Mocha Latte," when my shuttle pulled up.
Goldie, one of our Golden Retrievers hit me chest high
as I passed through the gate, while our blind Mastiff,
Comogente, took my legs out from under me. As I lay on
the rock staring into a bright blue cloudless sky, the
other dogs had their way with me and there was not a dry
spot on my body after they finished their collective
"welcome home, daddy!"

There was a time not too
long ago that I would have objected -- loudly. "Hon, I
love the dogs, but this is ridiculous!" I can hear
myself saying that, but not today, for I remember that
they way I know it, the way I believe life should be, is
just one way of looking at it, which brings me to the
point: There is no one, no being of any sort, from whom
we cannot learn. To the end of how we can learn from
animals, I reproduce an article by Thomas Murray that
originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal and later
in PETA's Animal Times.

When the Murray family
got George, they had to teach him to go up and down
stairs, because he'd lived his life on one floor. Murray
says that this was about the only thing the family ever
taught him in 13 years. he says, "It as mostly
desperation that made me finally give up and conclude
that maybe this dog didn't come to us to learn, but to
teach, though it took me a while to understand the
lessons."Murray started out trying to teach George by
using a rolled-up newspaper to stop his barking and
dancing through the house every time the doorbell rang
or he heard a car in the driveway. "I think he was
trying to make me understand," concludes Murray, "that a
friend at the door, or even a stranger or the mailman,
can be a nice little diversion on a humdrum day and
something to celebrate."

George was impatient
whenever his food was being fixed, prancing around the
kitchen, standing on his rear legs, and then gulping
down a full bowl almost before it was set in front of
him. No matter what was done to calm him down, George
never stopped this excitement, probably, as Murray
decided, "to remind me of the pure joy of wanting and
waiting for something and, by always wagging his tail
the entire time he was eating, demonstrating that
gratefulness is a priceless part of good manners and
doesn't cost a thing."Early on, Murray tried to get
George to hurry up and finish his business outside and
come back indoors. "In time," he says, "he taught me the
joy of a much longer sunrise walk to see the new day,
even in winter, and another after dinner to help put the
day's worries in perspective. I grow to look forward to
those walks as much as George did."

There are
many other lessons that George taught the family, but
here's my favorite: The Murrays tried to make
Christmastime special by putting a red bow on George's
collar and giving him extra treats, but they realized
that on all the days that weren't Christmas, George was
trying to show them that you can spread that feeling of
anticipation and happiness over the whole year, not just
when the decorations and the tree are up. George's
lesson was that "the only presents that mean much of
anything to him were those that were waiting for him,
not just on Christmas, but every morning of the year --
his family, his friends, his freedom, and not too many
baths."Murray's biggest regret is that "I'm a little
ashamed that right up until the end, I was still trying
to teach him things."

As I head out on the road
again, I am reminded that I learn more than I teach. I
meet interesting people, and make a few friends along
the way -- this tour Deniz and Tom have been there every
step of the way, helped me, provided valuable input,
taught me valuable lessons, and have become my friends
whom I will miss after the last talk is over a month
from now and we're packing up to head back to our
respective homes.The good news is that I will be mobbed
again at the gate by the dogs who, too, have a lot to
teach me, and I a lot to learn.