When they run and play, the three dogs know exactly how to move in a synchronized dance of delight. Brindle, a gray Standard Poodle, leaps with a lightness to her being as she bounds across the field. As the youngest of the dogs, she can outrun and outplay both of her senior male dog friends. Jack, a buff-colored Standard Poodle and bigger than Brindle, chases her in large circular movements, arcs of flying dog. Byron, the overweight Goldendoodle, lumbers straight at them, knowing it’s the quickest means to an easier end, flopping down and chewing a knotty brown branch from the bur oak tree. At first Brindle ignores Byron’s posture on the ground and grabs his long tail in her mouth and yanks as hard as she can. Byron rears up and chases after her. For a while. Within moments Jack joins the two and soon the three are spinning, chasing, and biting each other in a whirlwind of motion. Finally, Jack and Brindle shove Byron to the ground as he wears out, his old joints tired. He’s always been a lazy dog, more content to chew a stick than chase it. These three canine friends know each other intimately: every smell they take, every move they make, they simply love to be together.
Often I find myself joining in their play. Brindle invites me into her game of fetch. I find the large blue ball on a rope and fling it upward so that Brindle can chase and bring it back to me. Byron and Jack, bored by such a silly game, lumber off to bark at the neighbor dog or relax in the shade. Brindle has an endless need to fetch blue balls, and I always tire out before she does.
We are friends, the four of us. Three dogs and one human–companion species on the run, in the moment, working off each others’ moves and needs. To be a companion literally means to break bread with, to accompany. These dogs are more than pets, more than “just animals.” They are my companions, my friends. But they are dogs and I’m not. We get along much better when I honor their “dogness” and try not to turn them into furry humans. We are different. And yet we are so much the same–I’d say we love each other. We, who are different species, dwell in an intimate relationship with another.
Dogs and humans have evolved together, co-companions in their evolutionary dance. We need each other. Dogs scrutinize humans–they watch my every move, showing their love for me. They seem to know before I do what they can lure me into doing for them. We are family, part of each other’s clique. I suspect that they know way more about my habits, my every move than I do about theirs. And even with all that they know, they love me. Yes, love me. And I for one, am glad to count among them as their friend. We honor that we are different species, and celebrate our relationship. We share bread with each along our journey. We are Co-Companion Species: Brindle, Jack, Byron, and Ann in a dance of mutual love.
Listen to Dogs, by Gary Pederson, a 3-Part Invention inspired by our three dogs running and fighting playfully.