Moving to a new home, I get to see and observe the inner lives of dogs again, pack creatures of distinct habit, following the hidden rythyms and instincts we can only guess and wonder at. In the morning the dogs gather in our bedroom – Red in his crate, he is restless and needs enforced quiet; Frieda on the floor next to Maria, Lenore curled up at the foot of the bed, a sacred space she has occupied at night since she was a few months old. At first light, they stir, they know this is when we get up.
When I get out of bed and head towards the bedroom door, they are, all three, ahead of me. Dogs anticipate, they sense movement and direction before it happens, following light and sound and instinct. They go out, then come in a half hour later for food. They gather outside of the kitchen where their food is kept, waiting quietly, then they are fed. Maria and I sit in the living room and have breakfast, talk and sometimes meditate, plan the day. The dogs gather in a circle around us. If we meditate, they want clearly to be part of this silent time, and they are silent, barely moving. In meditation, I listen for the sounds of their breaths, a kind of living clock. A soothing sound for my restless mind, a way of slowing things down. Red waits for the sound of the three bells to signal the end of meditation and then he gets up before the third bell and is at the door. This, he knows, is when we do farm chores. His time, he alone gets to go to the pasture, to work, to move sheep. Lenore and Frieda know this is not their time, somehow, and melt away to windows, where they watch, or dog beds, where they settle.
Frieda guards the house, always, day or night, by the windows, watching for intruders, listening for strangers and trucks. Always on guard, always alert. Lenore easy, can go in or out, loves her sofa, loves to settle, to be a Lab.
When we are done with chores, Maria and I separate. Frieda is at the back door, where Maria goes to get to the studio. Red and Lenore are at the front, the door I use to take them out to walk, either in the woods nearby or down the road in a park. They rush out, watching me and either head to the car or the path in the back, depending on where I look or walk. Then it is work time. I go to my study. Lenore goes to her sofa, Red lies under my desk by my feet, where he will stay until I am done, at lunchtime or beyond. In the afternoon, this is repeated – more work, more chores, and then dinner, and then at night, the dogs become den animals and vanish into the dark corners of the house, by the wood stove, behind a sofa. Only Red stays by me, day and night, by my feet. They love their routines. They treasure tradition. They are always aware of us, of each other, of the rythyms of our lives.