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It's Nelly's World


alec vanderboom

Am I ever glad to be a social animal. The smartest ones are! Evolution provided a way for ten heads to be better than one, and that is why we are where we are--at the top of the heap (though it's also why the heap is too big, and listing dangerously to one side). Dogs are our closest companions because we instinctively understand each other--even if, as I would maintain, the greatest part of the understanding is done on the canine side--wired similarly as we are. And we can communicate so smoothly because the wolf's evolutionary social path, the pack, caused the canid mind to become as sharp, if not sharper in some ways, than ours. No one--and I mean no one, not even a primate--has the observational skills of a domesticated dog. You can see this in action every time it seems your pooch has read your mind: I was planning on going out, sure, but I hadn't even picked up my coat. That's kindergarten stuff to your Mensa friend.

I am so happy to be a social animal because, as I have discovered in the Meaning of Life (let me reiterate this personal discovery, OK? I'm so excited I repeat myself!), our relationships with one another are the joy and the salvation. They're why we're here--I mean, why we managed to survive. And also the reason why we'd want to.

The flower and fruit of all this Darwin is appearing in my life at this moment. My friends, as well as family (notwithstanding my mother's perhaps understandable lapses into non-helpful helpfulness), are doing heroic things. And I am suffused with love for them, for every phone call, note in the mail [Heather still writes lovely cards, with stamps and all!], liquor box, errand, show of support, way with bubble wrap, advice, smile, Nelly walk, hug, and bottle of wine. It's a flood of help, and though it's still not enough to completely scale the Everest of labor I still have before me to get out of this house and into another, it's enough to make me feel almost ashamed to receive so much.

But not as chastened, and astonished, as I was to read from a diary I wrote sixteen years ago and just unearthed from a box in the attic marked "Archives." I sat spellbound and gobsmacked and amazed to read words I had apparently written. Then forgot. I have now labeled this composition book The Incredible Premonition of the End in the Beginning. "This can only end badly," I wrote then, "in tremendous pain." I knew it all, it seems: what seemed fishy, what felt too good to be true, what didn't square with how the human psyche operates, what sounded suspicious, what I saw and felt and believed would ultimately happen. Which did.

Here's my dog now. She's watching. Her ears swivel forward, back. Her eyes are bright. Their rods and cones calmly absorb. Then she acts. She receives a signal, and she does not think about it, she acts.

Intuition is a gift, a way to protect ourselves. Disregard it at your peril. Prefer the pretty picture at the cost of your devastation. I did. Although if I had heeded it then, and walked away from what I thought I needed, I would now be missing some priceless things in my life, such as my child. And some valuable lessons, not only about trusting the voice of intuition which knows. It always knows.

My friends have now been teaching me in what ways I can be a better friend in the future. Who knows. Maybe that is why.

Would that I had been more of a dog. No self-doubt. No doubt.