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Published on: Nov. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 25, 2010

J.B. and Eddie.

A friend has explored the difference between people, who are linear in their thinking, and dogs, who are episodic. People think of time as an evenly-flowing river; dogs as a series of pools.

A human knows when hunting season ends and feels the weight of the time between seasons. But a dog knows only that it is hunting season, then there is time (a day, a week, a month, who knows - a dog doesn't) when there is no hunting, then it is hunting season again. A dog does not know of approaching age or death. It knows today and maybe a little bit of yesterday, but nothing of tomorrow.

Dacques and Chubby know "This food is mine, sucker, so keep your chops out of it!" When the skirmish is over the insult is forgotten, and it's time to sleep and dream of rabbits chased and quail pointed. There is a simplicity in this lifestyle which precludes worry over illness and death and where the next meal is coming from. I envy this simple outlook.

We live six or seven times as long as a dog, but we pay for it with awareness. We span the time between the flivver and the Impala, the Jenny and the jet, where a dog may live only the life of the family car.

Most people wouldn't trade the ability to reason in depth and even to worry or fear the unknown for a dog's simple frame of reference. But there are plenty of times in the still of the night when ghosts press close that being Chubby or Dacques seems pretty attractive. They're the ones twitching with joyously fevered dreams while I lie awake and think of demons.

We moved to the country just over 2 years ago and since they took up fulltime residence, Chubby has caught and eaten a squirrel, they both caught and killed a young raccoon and a young skunk and Chubby discovered and shared with Dacques a brood of young turkeys. Each caught and retrieved one to my son, Andy, who could only shake his head. They were wonderfully pleased that they had found and brought home these big game birds without our help.

That the birds were out of season and too young were details not material to a dog's episodic life. No point in ol' Linear Me explaining that if they had let those turkeys grow up they might have been trophy gobblers responding to my call.

Dacques and Chubby are hunting I am. I wouldn't chase down and eat a raw squirrel, but I shoot them out of the trees and make Biglersville stew of them. I wouldn't shoot a baby turkey, but I long for the moment when the little guy develops a beard and a deep yodel and comes to my call.

There's no basic difference between the dogs drowsing in the kennel and me. We live to hunt and we love to eat what we kill.

And there really isn't much difference in brothers, be they Brittanies or Vances. When all the petty differences are solved, it's time to throw your arm/paw around the other guy's shoulders and face the world.

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