October 23, 2005
Hope and the Human Beast
Some of the best parts of a dog's life are spent in eager anticipation. We anticipate the morning walk, the trip in the car, the special treat brought home in the doggie bag. We can barely contain ourselves when humans swing back their arms to throw a stick, or when a cat prepares to jump from a fence, or when a duck falls into the icy water after the boom of the gun. We Labs literally go tense with anticipation, our muscles coiled, our ears up, our eyes locked.
Yes, humans anticipate, too, but they're not as good at it. Or maybe they just do it differently. It's confusing. You see, humans have a kind of super-long anticipation, which they call hope. It seems to be the anticipation of things you can't see or smell or even hear. It's as if they're anticipating invisible frisbees that may or may not not be gliding in from far away. There's the "nicer house" frisbee and the "make more money" frisbee and the "better job" frisbee. There's even the "we'll be happier later" frisbee, a perennial hope that always seems to skim by just outside their reach.
I'm not even sure where hope comes from. I've heard that hope springs eternal from the human beast, or maybe it was breast. Could that be true? Could there be tiny human-hope frisbees that are shot out from little springs located inside them? Or do they somehow secrete hope in the same way that bees secrete wax?
Like I said, it's confusing. Hope strikes me as a hard thing, since human hopes are so often, as they say, dashed. Personally, I think anticipation beats hope. If you're going to hope, hope for what's most likely: that you'll get a treat after a long walk, that there'll always be cool water in the toilet bowl, that a wagging tail will elicit a human smile, and that a floppy disc thrown into the sea will float on the waves until you grasp it in your jaws. Oh, it's true that dogs can be disappointed or even, if badly treated over long periods, disillusioned. But in the course of day-to-day events, dogs tend not to dwell on hopes or losses. It's wiser to live for the now, or at least savor the sweet, anticipatory moments of the nearly, normally inevitable. Tomorrow, with luck, will be as fine as today. What more could one hope for?
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