When I was a kid back in Charleston, West Virgina, when we still played 'Cowboys and Indians' and thought jokes were funny that would seem stupid now because they weren't all about sex and every other word wasn't "f*uck", dogs running free were part of the landscape. Home from school, the kids went out to play and so did the dogs. The kids had a pecking order and so did the canines. We knew who could beat whose ass, and so did Prince and Duke and Rover. And basically, we all got along fine.
The dogs chased cars and 'shat' (plural of shit) in the fields where we organized our own baseball and football games, depending on the season. Sometimes we stepped in the shit. No big deal as long as we scraped it off our shoes before we went inside our homes. Stomping in a pile of dog manure was part of being a kid, and as far as I remember nobody died of cancer or tuberculosis because of it.
It's different now. I can understand that in crowded cities there must be some restraint, and since I love dogs I am only too happy to see them on leashes. You see, this protects the dog as much as it does the kid. Because any time there is a conflict between a child (or even an adult) and a dog, the dog gets blamed, sometimes with lethal consequences for the animal.
Don't get me wrong — I like children — as long as they are properly cooked. (OK, OK, I am joking of course!) But I fail to see why, especially in public parks, there has to be this automatic disconnect between animals and children, often based on some crappy, nonsensical 'hygiene' issue. I see that in Moscow many areas which used to be open, speckled with rough wildflowers and virginal paths — places where shepherds and poodles and beagles could romp — are now full of foppish little 'playgrounds' manicured and custom-made to the point of resembling faggy 'theme' parks — 'playtime' museums like you see outside of MacDonalds.
There is no question in my mind that many people are as afraid of dogshit as they used to be of the secret police. I, personally, am not the least bit disturbed by such a nature-driven essence as shit, although I HAVE noticed that, for some strange reason, human shit smells a lot worse that anything coming out the ass-end of animal. Sometimes you can even say the same for human breath (animals don't smoke and guzzle coffee and booze). Moreover, animals dung is profitable; people pack loads and loads of it into big sacks and sell it as "fertilizer." Have you ever seen corn grow out of a spot of ground where your Uncle Vanya donated a big, vodka-laced 'jobby'? Let animals roam the fields, however, and I guarantee you the corn-on-the-cob will soon be delicious. As a matter of fact, I love the smell of zoos, but even more, I love the smell of farms and farm animals. I am getting to the point where I would rather look at a natural cow or horse than a woman with false tits and lip implants.
Let's see. I don't know much about technology, but I know a lot about sports. I don't understand electronics or auto-mechanicals, but I understand literature. I often cannot get a corporate coffee machine or copying machine to work (they all look like spaceships to me), but I understand dogs. Maybe I was a dog in a former life, or maybe it is just some kind of gift. For example, I have tried to believe in God and so far have mostly failed. In America especially, many people used to try to "sell" God to me, but they never came close to answering my questions. Then one day an old Catholic nun told me that her ability to see (or know) God was a "gift" — the best statement I have ever heard on the subject. I didn't need to question her further. And it really made me think — to reassess what was possibly my own limitations, my own blindness in a certain area. Conflicting interpretation — yes, of course, it is always fair. But dogmatic denial of what is perfectly obvious to another person gifted with insight —defines the fool.
So the 'sister' knew God, and I know dogs. I once had a dispute with a guy. He said that dogs only stay with you if you feed them; otherwise, they don't care about you. They have no feelings. No sadness, no happiness, no anxiety, no loneliness or delight. I liked this guy but when. I asked him: "Have you ever had a dog?" — he stammered for a moment and then admitted "No." The point was not to humiliate or 'defeat' him, but to expose, as gently as possible, his ignorance.
Ok, a dog cannot play a game of chess with you or discuss the weather. My dogs in Varna do not know that they are in Varna, just as they didn't know when they were in Moscow. They don't know it is now 2017. But go out in a forest with your dog some evening and get drunk and get lost in the middle of that forest. Try to find your way home. Three days later you will probably be half-dead or chewing the bark off the trees, while the dog will be sitting on the front porch wondering what the hell happened to you. Or following you around in circles through the forest. Because he loves you. He will not abandon you. If you starve, the dog — once you have won his heart — will starve with you. Many women will abandon you when the money runs out. Many men will drop you as a friend when you lose your job and income. Not the dog.
Eventually, my 'converted' wife insisted on another dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Casper. He has grown into a fine young man. They are waiting for me in Bulgaria now. Liuba, Poppy, and Cass. More and more, I feel the urge to answer their call to me. Just get up and go, and say the hell with everything. Throw other obligations to the wind. In the midst of this, however, I am confronted with, what to me, is a profound question. What is the level of love involved? I think my wife loves me. I hope she does. I guess she does. Sometimes I am sure she does. But sometimes not. O how I wonder !!
And for my wife and I — a marriage not without its share of problems — they hold the bonding power; they offer what I — and maybe Liuba too — have always sought for in places bright or dark: love that will not turn its face away when evil comes. They are our children, and we love them the same way you love yours. Love is love.
===Eric Richard Leroy===