Last month I was wandering around Literati–one of Ann Arbor’s fabulous new independent bookstores–and came across Mary Oliver’s book of poems, Dog Songs. In it was a short poem titled “If You Are Holding This Book” which ends with the following lines:
that of all the sights I love in this world–
and there are plenty–very near the top of
the list is this one: dogs without leashes.
Reading that last line made me smile and ache at the same time. Because it hit directly at that tender, often elusive space between my unbridled love for wild, unrestricted dogs and my need to be a responsible, conscientious dog owner (and all of the practical baggage that goes along with it).
Initially that ache made me resent everything I know about dog behavior, pet overpopulation and civic responsibility and made me long for the days when I was blissfully ignorant of it all. Because over the last few years, the sight of an off leash dog really has lost much of the joy and magic I once associated with it.
Then I thought some more about it. And it’s really all about the yin and yang of it. I am both a romantic and a cynic. A person of spirituality (or faith, if you prefer) and a lover of science. And there is absolutely no reason I can’t manage to love the sight of off leash dogs again, and still work to do my part as an informed, responsible owner and community member. These are complementary states of being, not oppositional.
This past Christmas Eve was a frigid but stunningly beautiful and sunny snow-covered day here in Michigan. And my husband and I celebrated with an afternoon walk with Buster Brown, that included stealing some off leash time at the high school because it appeared safe to do so, and it made all three of us ridiculously happy.
Here’s to a more enlightened new year, highlighted by the interdependence between the wild abandon and conscientiousness that lives within every person who has the pleasure of sharing their life with a dog.
And in that spirit, here’s one of my favorite new resources from D.I.N.O.S. that playfully addresses that interconnected space: Should I Leash My Dog Flowchart