A couple weeks ago Christopher, the dog we inherited in January, died. My wife took him for a morning walk, he went to sleep in the backyard, and never woke up.

Christopher
via flickr

He was 14, so we knew when we took him in that he was more or less on loan. Still, it was a shock, even if it wasn’t really a surprise.

I hadn’t lived with a dog since I was a kid, and when we took him in I didn’t really know what to expect. But he proved to be very smart, and great at communicating his needs. I quickly realized that if I just paid attention to what he was doing, I could decode what he wanted– though sometimes it was especially easy.

Christopher
via flickr

It was also instructive living with a creature who didn’t really just wanted to belong, to be part of the family, and was happy so long as he could be with us. As someone who lives among highly analytical, calculating people, I’m constantly trying to figure out what clients want, what readers want, what funders want to hear, etc. Being with someone whose mental model of himself and others was really straightforward and guileless was instructive.

At the same time, it was also cool that he was a dog, and did dog things. While he took pleasure in being with us, he also enjoyed having his own, very different, incredibly physical life, one where smells and dirt were really fascinating. 

Christopher
via flickr

His life intersected with ours; it didn’t overlap completely. I found that cool.

We went to the dog park pretty regularly, and he had several friends there, including one dog he would follow around and just drool on. They were both quite elderly, so it was a charming sight.

Christopher
via flickr

He also made me a lot more familiar with my neighborhood. Taking him on walks twice a day meant I developed an intimate sense of my surroundings, albeit from a somewhat canine point of view. (I never knew things smelled so interesting around here.)

Christopher
via flickr

A friend– one of the many Peninsula people who had contact with him over the years– said that he was such a good dog he was sure to come back as a human. I’m not so sure he needs to; if it’s possible for a dog to achieve canine nirvana, I think Christopher managed it.

Christopher
via flickr