Worse Than His Bark

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!

Big Blake, the Labrador of Legend, has many qualities that have made him a frequent guest in this column. There’s his loving, devoted heart. His well-meaning but clumsy reflexes. His simple mind, undistracted by anything resembling thought – except, of course, when it comes to eating the inedible, from brand-new crayons to baby wipes.

Usually, his powerful singing voice isn’t part of the epic. But we are living in unusual times.

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!

“Blake, buddy! What is it?”

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!

“OK, we’ve got the message. What’s going on?”

With a bark like that, a reasonable person might expect that Blake had gotten himself caught somewhere. Nope.

A suspicious person might look for burglars or a fearful one for ghosts. Uh-uh.

Injury? Storm? Timmy fallen into the well? No, no and no.

Like much that goes on in the 17 brain cells behind Blake’s eyes, it’s a mystery. But after the 37th time and some careful observation, we think we’ve put together a working theory.

You see, Big Blake is about 15 years old. And while he still has the body of a former athlete (complete with bad knees), his eyes and ears ain’t what they used to be. So when he’s resting in a room, every so often he’ll realize he hasn’t heard us in a while.

Not realizing we have retreated to the far reaches of The Next Room or (heaven forbid) the Great Upstairs, he’ll search his mind and memory and decide that he’s been left alone. At which point, he proceeds to express his heartbreak through the song of his ancestors.

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!

In short, he gets worried. He gets confused. He gets lonely. Most of the time, with help a lot closer at hand than he thinks.

Sound familiar?

These days, I’m sure we’re all sick to death of the phrase “unprecedented times.” We’ve had to adjust to a new normal … and then a newer normal … and then the normal after that one. With vaccines rolling out and masks coming off, we’ve started to allow ourselves to breathe just a little, but we’re still aware of just how fragile “normality” is.

Early in the pandemic, many of us literally howled at dusk to show solidarity.  Since then, the cries have been lonelier and more anguished or frustrated. The reasons are many, varied and all too familiar. Uncertainty. Fear. Stress. Loss. Desperation. Too many things have gone away that were needed or loved, too many have stayed that were unwanted.

Most of all, perhaps, we’ve felt alone. We’ve been keeping the world at arm’s length and then some. At a time when we need our neighbors most, we’ve sometimes struggled to even see the same world, never mind the same response to a crisis.

And so our lives have had a lot of bark. And even some bite, from time to time.

But even in the midst of isolation, we were always closer to each other than we realized. And every time we did realize it, it sparked just a little more hope.

And so we sang. Worked. Cried. Worshipped. Comforted. We reached for the things that make us human. Not easily or comfortably. But inevitably.

Now that things are starting to ease, maybe we can see that connection more easily. I hope so. It doesn’t have to be rebuilt, just rediscovered.

The house isn’t empty. It never was. And once we realize that, it’ll truly be a time to celebrate.

We might even raise the woof.

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