by David Park
It was wet out. They had a break in the rain but a fine mist hovered in the air and kept the ground wet. Whether the mist splashed up from the ground or fell from the sky was anyone’s guess. Maybe it was a little of both. Unconcerned with the wetness, Doggie Chi trotted along, stubby tail bouncing back and forth, happily sniffing the air this way and that. His little legs didn’t look quite coordinated. They were reminiscent somehow of a toy dog, but they didn’t quite seem artificial in their movement either. Whatever the movement was, it did its job – it carried him forward and it even managed to convey a jaunty sense of fun and possibility.
The jaunty one’s official name was Fitzwilly. At least that was his given name but he thought of himself as Doggie Chi. That is, he thought of himself that way when he thought of himself at all. He wasn’t always Doggie Chi. Sometimes he lost himself. When that happened, he forgot to notice himself feeling his emotions at all. All that he was aware at those times were his emotions. He wasn’t aware of himself at all.
But that wasn’t what was going on now. For now, he was aware and in the moment. He was also aware of the other dog and the person walking with him. It had rained earlier and clouds hung low and turned the sky grey but for the moment, the rain had stopped. The whole city seemed different because of the rain. It wasn’t just that everything seemed washed clean and sparkled in its wetness. There was a palpable difference to the city. It was almost as if it had a tangible reality that got washed out in bright sunlight. It smelled different. Things were richer, deeper.
He could smell the lushness of the grass and shrubs and other growing things he walked by. He could smell the earth. He didn’t even have to leave the sidewalk. He didn’t have to push his nose into everything the way he usually did. It was as if the smells came to him. He didn’t have to seek them out. It was like the soul of the city was rising up to meet him.
He trotted along, feeling the wetness of the concrete. He felt how cool it was and how it soaked his toes. He relished the wetness of his fur, perhaps because it was limited to the surface. He was still puffed out and dry underneath but his collar was wet. So was the leash that connected him to his person, the one walking him this morning. There were three of them but this one seemed to take a special pride in walking the dogs. Or maybe it was joy. Maybe he enjoyed it.
Whatever it was, his person didn’t enjoy it this morning. It was early enough that he had only been partially awake when they’d left on their walk. He’d sort of stumbled along at the end of the leashes, letting the dogs lead the way. That is, he’d stumbled along until the wetness had soaked through his clothing and hit his skin.
Then he was awake and grumbling under his breath. Not like other, drier times. Unbidden, Doggie Chi remembered some of those other times. He had made great efforts to train his people properly. They were better than they had been but they still objected sometimes when he wanted to jump up onto the bed or couch.
Nevertheless, they seemed to enjoy holding him. They seemed particularly fond of holding him against the side of the chest when they were laying down. He’d even taken to folding his legs beneath him and laying his head on their shoulder while they snuggled him. It was particularly nice to lay there and be held. He could feel their warmth at such times.
Of course, warmth wasn’t appropriate when it was hot, but it was at least tolerated most of the rest of the time and it was really appreciated in the cold weather. He remembered the cold. It seemed like an infinite gulf separated the summer warmth all around him from the biting cold of winter but the sight of the school as they rounded the corner reminded him of fall and winter. Little kids gathered in the school during the cold months. It was summer now and the place was empty but in the present moment, the school loomed ever larger.
It was good that the school was silent. Little kids didn’t seem to understand. They saw his fur and diminutive size and cooed over him. Inevitably someone would step forward, wanting to pick him up – a thoroughly undignified thing. No doubt, the child imagined squeezing him and nuzzling his neck fur and the fur on his head.
Almost in spite of himself, Fitzwilly growled softly. His imagination was filled with awful things, like being petted and cuddled, being held and shown off and generally treated like a dog instead of the being of insight and discernment that he was.
None of these things had actually happened but that didn’t matter. He lost himself in his emotions. His imagination was much worse than anything in real life and he was consumed with such projections now. His imagination was filled with what-ifs. It didn’t matter that those things were completely unreal. His emotional response was one of fear and anger. The fear and anger were real. So was the growl.
He flashed on his mother and litter-mates when they were very young. It wasn’t like he never saw his mother after that. They saw each other all the time at family picnics and on holidays. They would run after each other and chase balls, imaginary rats, and other things together. Or they would sit or lie down together, simply taking the afternoon in.
They could sit together that way for hours and let the quiet overtake them. Those times were especially powerful for Doggie Chi. Other dogs were there, too, of course. He would play with them, but it was never quite the same. He supposed that every dog is different.
Regardless of which dog or dogs he played with, however, at the end of the day he would go home with his humans. It was a big responsibility to raise and take care of a whole family of humans but he was up to the challenge. He accepted them into his life with joy and dignity.
He thought about his mother and the times they’d shared as he walked through wetness. If he could, he would have smiled. He’d gone through many things in his life. Some turns were right, many things that seemed right were actually wrong. Others seemed wrong at first but provided opportunities to learn and grow, so what seemed to be wrong at first turned out to be exactly right.
In every case, it came down to an awareness of what was right in front of him. In fact, stubbornly ignoring the facts and insisting on what was expected always led to trouble and the solution always revolved around correcting that fact.
What was he ignoring now?
Something was missing in what he felt. Then he realized in a rush what it was. He noticed that he felt the emotions of fear and anger but he wasn’t aware of himself feeling them. He knew from experience that those emotions would point to the center. But without a sense of self, you lost yourself. It was like being lost in a storm and going around and around endlessly without getting any closer to the eye. The trick, of course, was finding that center.
He wasn’t Doggie Chi while he chased his tail around the center. He didn’t embody the wisdom of Doggie Chi. He was just Fitzwilly. Alone.
He walked on, noticing again the sights and smells of the city and how they had changed. At the top of the hill, they could easily see over the school. Ahead, the treetops got lower as the ground descended. In the distance, he could see downtown Pittsburgh. He could make out windows in the buildings. It definitely seemed walkable but he wouldn’t want to walk there. It had to be miles and miles away.
He did his business in the grass and his person picked it up and was just finishing tying the bag shut when it started to rain quite a bit harder. Big drops fell from the sky and soon a river appeared where the road had been. The sky crackled, which Fitzwilly didn’t particularly like, but which Charley Girl positively hated. What had been a general dampness that soaked slowly through fur and clothing became a dripping mess as wet spots merged and all pretenses of keeping even private areas dry were lost.
There was no refuge from the downpour. Doggie Chi followed his person’s lead and walked with grace and dignity through the rain, even though, now soaked to the skin, he resembled a half-drowned rat more than a dog of distinction. His person laughed out loud. It was a boisterous sound which might have been intrusive if not for the sound of the rain, the rushing water, and the wind all around them. As it was, it fit.
“At least,” his person was speaking. “At least it’s warm.”
”Walking In the Rain” at StoriesToEntertain.com by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.