The difference between humans and animals is that animals fully say yes to their being.
— Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond
If you want to cause a stir in my house, just say these two words, “Wanna go?”
We don’t use the word “walk” in this house. Instead, we simply raise the pitch of our voices one octave and say with excitement, “Wanna go?” When it’s said, two pair of ears go up and the dogs go wild. Usually, the German Shepherd — named, The Lord, because “the Lord is my shepherd” — will vocalize something that sounds exactly like, “All right!!”
Of course, most of the time I don’t have to utter those words because, I swear, my dogs can tell time. We always take a two-mile stroll (with ample time for sniffing and marking) around the neighborhood at lunchtime. So, when the clock strikes noon I have two wet noses nudging me no matter where I am or what I’m doing (bathroom included).
We rarely alter the route we take around the neighborhood. I’ve learned the best way to go to avoid the possibility of loose dogs and other dangers, but to me the route gets a little boring day after day. I realize, however, my dogs are having a brand new walk every single day … mainly because they experience the walk more fully than I do.
I usually get lost in my thoughts … what to cook for dinner, what errands I need to do, phone calls to make, snatches of ideas for sermons or other writing … and I don’t really notice the scenery around me, much less the smells. The dogs? They’re all about the scent of the walk. They raise their heads high to catch an aroma in the air — perhaps another dog or human further up the road who passed by here recently or the scent of a neighbor’s leaf burning still lingering in the air. They thrust their noses into the ground, fully immersing their sensitive snouts in the scents left behind by other dogs, animals, insects or God knows what.
While I am bored on the walk most days, my dogs revel in each step, each new smell, each new sight to see whether it’s the weekly appearance of fragrant trashcans by the side of the road or a new pile of leaves or straw to leave their own scent on for other dogs to enjoy. While I think about what I’m going to do after the walk, the dogs are fully immersed in the walk.
I could learn a lesson from my dogs. I rarely live in the moment, but the moment is the only thing they ever know. I may attribute human qualities to them and think that they’re thinking about time elapsing so they can go for a walk, but it’s not true. They simply know that in whatever moment they are in, they’re fully engaged in it.
We human beings think too much to live like that. We have worries, plans, anxieties, agendas and chores to get to and get done. My dogs only have this moment, and it seems that in every moment they’re incredibly happy whether they’re lounging in the yard, chasing squirrels, barking at thin air or joyously tugging at the leash to get the last atomic particle of scent into their sensitive noses.
“I come that they may have life and have it abundantly,” Jesus is said to have said. What abundance have I missed by checking out, not just on my walk, but in most every other moment of my life?
I want to learn how to pay attention more … to live life more like my dogs … always present.
I want to know what the walk smells like.