Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

Walk and enjoy*

May 25, 2013

“Regular walking can strengthen your heart and improve your general health. Walk and enjoy yourself as you enhance the quality of your life.”

My dogs and I – the two pictured here, and two others (one gone, one sadly going) – have been walking past this fading but affirming sign several times a week for over a decade. Best health-and-happiness advice I’ve ever received, dispensed for free by the good congregants of the adjoining Baptist church on whose tax-free property we’ve been traipsing all these years. Our transitory  souls, the dogs’ and mine, thank them very much for generously sharing their space with us – and for not proselytizing.

“Walking continues to be a great pleasure. It also continues to be a form of self-medication. It stops me from getting depressed. It keeps me more or less healthy, more or less sane. It helps me to write.” (Geoff Nicholson)

Except for that last sentence my dogs would say the same. The sign is right.

dogWalk

*Originally posted 5.14.09

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Wag more

May 24, 2013

When you talk dogs and philosophy you really have to begin with Diogenes of Sinope, don’t you?

DiogenesSolvitur ambulando* (“it is solved by walking”) is often attributed to him. Don’t know why canes is typically omitted from the phrase, since the philosopher whose full nominal designation (“D. the Cynic”) practically means dog, knew the  ultimate solution almost always involves a second or third set of appendages. Preferably a quadra-set, and canine.

(Actually my Latin teacher, Ms. Google-Translate, prefers *solvendum est per ambulationem canes. Write that on the board a hundred times! Tense is tricky. But cynics do not cavil over convention.)

Unless they’ve been “trained”, dogs and Cynic philosophers do what it occurs to them to do when it occurs to them to do it, without regard for local custom or popular propriety or (especially) the presence of commanding authority. Diogenes told Alexander to step out of his sunlight. We’re told Alex was impressed. The dog was not. But why does that make either Diogenes or his dog a “cynic”?

There are four reasons why the Cynics are so named. First because of the indifference of their way of life, for they make a cult of indifference and, like dogs, eat and make love in public, go barefoot, and sleep in tubs and at crossroads. The second reason is that the dog is a shameless animal, and they make a cult of shamelessness, not as being beneath modesty, but as superior to it. The third reason is that the dog is a good guard, and they guard the tenets of their philosophy. The fourth reason is that the dog is a discriminating animal which can distinguish between its friends and enemies. So do they recognize as friends those who are suited to philosophy, and receive them kindly, while those unfitted they drive away, like dogs, by barking at them.

AngelPupMy dogs are actually much sweeter and more compliant than that. They’re waggers, not barkers. They don’t even hassle fundamentalists or Platonists. (Squirrels & chipmunks are another story.) One’s an “Angel,” not a “Cynic,” thanks to Younger Daughter’s inspiration at the puppy pound. But wouldn’t Cynic and Diogenes be perfect names for a pair of pups? Their eventual successors perhaps, should I live so long.

But not so fast, they’d say if they could. These two are still fabulous walking companions and they’re infinitely patient. I won’t keep them waiting another moment.

 

Pedagogue dogs

May 23, 2013

That dog gazing uncomprehendingly (yet agreeably) at that treadmill reminds me, as most everything does, of something William James said:

We stand in much the same relation to the whole of the universe as our canine and feline pets do to the whole of human life. They inhabit our drawing-rooms and libraries. They take part in scenes of whose significance they have no inkling. They are merely tangent to curves of history the beginnings and ends and forms of which pass wholly beyond their ken. So we are tangents to the wider life of things.

This is James in speculative mode, towards “whatever [we] may consider the divine.” I prefer to keep the divinity (and cats) out of it myself, but I think the point still sticks: our experience merely brushes up against realities, most of the time, if and when it encounters them at all. So a little more good-natured humility, curiosity, and patient anticipation is in order. And unconditional loyalty. That’s what our dogs can teach us.

Books have been written on this theme, of course. Inside of a Dog and What’s a Dog For? are both on my list. And Rousseau’s Dog.

Schopenhauer was inexplicably partial to poodles. When they misbehaved he berated them: “Bad human!” Meanest insult he could imagine.

So, there’ll be a chapter in PW on walking the dogs. Rousseau did it, Schopenhauer did it, I do it daily.

What sort of space makes you solitary?

March 17, 2012

Awoke in a foul and complaining mood this morning. First, because I’m home alone. It’s Spring Break for everybody else in the family. They lit out for the beach yesterday afternoon, straight from school, and left me stranded here with the dogs & cat & fish & a pile of grading. I enjoy my solitude, but prefer to take it in the rough proximity of loved ones.  Not to hurt the cat’s feelings, or minimize the consolations of a purr at your elbow… but it was just simply too quiet here last night. The silence was deafening.

Plus, I didn’t get to see them off because I had to go straight from the auto shop (brake job, they were worn down to a millimeter) to meet with another arbitrary rejection from the Academic Committee That Cannot Be Named.

And  topping it all, I have a headache.

But if you complain, as Eric Idle told Michael Palin, it does you no good etc. etc.

So here’s something to feel good about, reported in TimeA Daily Walk Can Reduce the Power of Weight-Gaining Genes

It’s the first study to bring the effect of exercise down to the genetic level, and to measure how physical activity can change the way genes work — in this case by inhibiting the activity of genes that promote weight gain. MORE:How Exercise Can Change Your DNA

The study also documented an increase in the activity of these genes among those who were more sedentary. For every two hours spent in front of the television every day, there was a 0.3 kg/m2 increase in Body Mass Index (BMI). The fact that walking and TV watching each had independent effects on BMI hints that it’s important both to increase exercise and reduce sedentary time in order to lose weight.

Losing weight is not my issue, but gaining momentum can be. What I really lose on my daily hour ramble is (for instance) angry feelings about obtuse academics, and feelings of excessive solitude, and aches in the cranium.

So I gotta get out there right now. Sorry cat, you don’t get to go. A purr will take a person only so far, and I too believe it’s really  crucial to walk the dogs – and not just for the many, many health benefits. This morning I’ll be pondering one of Thoreau’s more interesting reflections on what it really means to be alone.

Men frequently say to me, “I should think you would feel lonesome down there, and want to be nearer to folks, rainy and snowy days and nights especially.” I am tempted to reply to such—This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, dwell the two most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments? Why should I feel lonely? is not our planet in the Milky Way? This which you put seems to me not to be the most important question. What sort of space is that which separates a man from his fellows and makes him solitary? I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another. What do we want most to dwell near to? Not to many men surely, the depot, the post-office, the bar-room, the meeting-house, the school-house, the grocery, Beacon Hill, or the Five Points, where men most congregate, but to the perennial source of our life, whence in all our experience we have found that to issue, as the willow stands near the water and sends out its roots in that direction. This will vary with different natures, but this is the place where a wise man will dig his cellar…. Walden

Henry was wrong about one thing: I’ve found that an exertion of the legs can close some of the gap between people. I’ll probably have to walk from here to the gulf, though, to feel better about that *&%$! committee.

Sunday

December 21, 2009

I was not up at dawn today. Can’t recall the last time I slept ’till 7:30. Must’ve been worn out from tending dogs & earth-stove and watching old MLB classics. (I didn’t think the world was still b&w in 1970!)

Just for the record: I’m glad the Titans won, and confess tuning in on my ancient Little House set (w/digital converter box) in time to see the winning field goal. But Charlie Brown was on channel 2. No contest.

Good dogs

December 20, 2009

I was recently astonished to learn that a colleague’s old dog of many years, “Phoenix,” died in June. So did ours.

We’ve worked together for many years but had never discussed our respective canine companions, and so had not discovered the improbable coincidence of their sharing a relatively rare name. Their shared fate was not so rare, but its timing was still an improbable shock.

I think we both can appreciate Verlyn Klinkenborg‘s tribute to his own old friend, “Darcy,” and his recognition that good lives and good deaths are not exclusively human attainments. Letting loved ones go, whatever their pedigree, is hard. But it’s not finally about us.

“It comes down, in the end, to the pleasure she shows, the interest she takes in the world around her — and not to anything her humans feel. She has not had the life she might once have expected — a far better one instead. My job is to make sure she gets the death she deserves — in her human’s arms.

And so she has. She died quietly last Friday while I sat on the floor beside her at the vet’s. The world is a poorer place without her.”

My sister is grieving for her “Pedro,” mysteriously afflicted just the other day. I’m very sorry for your loss, D.

Soon– if not already– the sadness will merge with the happy memories: another gift of love unbounded by pedigree.

Walk and enjoy

May 14, 2009

“Regular walking can strengthen your heart and improve your general health. Walk and enjoy yourself as you enhance the quality of your life.”

My dogs and I – the two pictured here, and two others (one gone, one sadly going) – have been walking past this fading but affirming sign several times a week for over a decade. Best health-and-happiness advice I’ve ever received, dispensed for free by the good congregants of the adjoining Baptist church on whose tax-free property we’ve been traipsing all these years. Our transitory  souls, the dogs’ and mine, thank them very much for generously sharing their space with us – and for not proselytizing.

“Walking continues to be a great pleasure. It also continues to be a form of self-medication. It stops me from getting depressed. It keeps me more or less healthy, more or less sane. It helps me to write.” (Geoff Nicholson)

Except for that last sentence my dogs would say the same. The sign is right.

dogWalk

Dawn

April 25, 2009

I slept in on this Saturday, ’til 6. But for the first time this year, at least in my notice, it’s warm and pleasant enough at this hour to beckon me and my coffee mug outside.  So here we sit,  Starbucks mug and trusty Toshiba  and me and the glorious Spring morning.  Thoreauvian excess is irresistible.

“The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour. Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night.”

And,

“All memorable events, I should say, transpire in morning time and in a morning atmosphere.”

Night owls will find these sentiments annoying, if not insulting.  Sorry.  The proper emphasis, though,  is not on morning in the clock-time sense but as an atmospheric phenomenon.

“To him whose elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning. It matters not what the clocks say or the attitudes and labors of men. Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me.”

It just so happens that there is most dawn in me at dawn, too.  And as my inner and spiritual dawn meets the glare of aurora – the sun just peeked over my neighbor’s roofline – I’ll take one more gulp of liquid motivation. Then, my dogs and I (a lab, a semi-lab, and a “mut” who’s sleeker and smarter than them both) will amble out into the street to greet the day.  To be awake is to be alive… go confidently in the direction of your dreams… (etc. etc.)  I’ll bet night owls’ dogs don’t get as much exercise as mine do!

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