It’s an undeniably strange thing to do: to shackle oneself to a beast. But that’s what your dog is, what your wife is, what your child is: wild. The only truly tamed creatures are the defeated ones; and nobody loves a defeated creature. At best we can pity them, at worst despise.
The wildness is what we respect and what we admire: an unpredictable impulse, true to desire, true to the moment. But as any sensible person would confirm: it’s one thing to love a wild creature, it’s another to tie yourself to it with a 6-foot rope.
But it is in just such a condition that I frequently find myself: tied to a dog. I’m at the other end of the leash when she darts at a passing poodle, or halts – ass to ground – halfway through a jog to poop, or wanders sharply to the side on the trail of a discarded chicken bone.
And I find myself stressed. I’m not enjoying the walk or the jog because my attention is on the dog. I’m not open to the wonders of the world, I am keyed in to the dog’s movement, to the dog’s gaze, the dog’s mood. I’m constantly adjusting the leash, providing slack or holding firm, changing hands and picking up the drag. I’m too in tune. I have ceased to live my own life. I am a slave to the dog.
I don’t want to beat her into submission or drag her around by her neck. I want her to live a life filled with joy, wonder and youthful abandon. A wild life. So, I sacrifice these characteristics in myself. She is the beast and I am her keeper. She is wild and I am tame, defeated by worry, trying to protect her from the dangerous world. For her wildness does not respect the danger of the “do not walk” signal. She is not fit for this civilized world. if she is to survive, I must watch over her every movement, ready to catch her if she lunges into traffic.
That’s really all it comes down to: traffic. If there were no cars I would let her go, allow her to follow her own impulse. I may come to her rescue if she is stoned by hateful youths, or snagged on a rusty fence, but a car moves too fast for rescue. A car moves too fast for life. A car weighs 2000 pounds and drives 60 miles per hour, yet the nervous system that controls it was made to control 200 pounds moving at a top speed of 12 miles per hour.
And so I must civilize the beast. I must ensure that she not only stops at every corner and waits for my ok, but that she also not lunge at passing dogs or pigeons, for fear that one may be on the other side of a speeding motorway. I must ensure that she does not blindly chase the olfactory trail of a Cheeto lying in the median. One by one I must remove her joyful impulses. Little by little I must defeat her wildness.
And I hate that. But which do I hate more: destroying her wildness or destroying her life?
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