I found I was “being” Maxine more and more.
The world seemed such an ugly place for human beings, sometimes. The complexities of life were made simple for mass consumption, and simple concepts made complex by way of greed and blood-lust.
Maxine’s world, my world as Maxine, was not filled with fear, guilt, or shame; nor was it driven by greed or cravings for power. The world was never looked at with a critical eye, or proprietorially, or as a place to make better, or to demand my rights and privileges, or to make worse.
The world just existed.
When I was Maxine I had canine sensibilities and not human preconceptions. I was immersed in an existence that was mostly concerned with my next meal, my next drink of water, a warm place to sleep, companionship, and protection from threats or danger. In between I smelled everything. I was thrilled if there was a pleasant surprise, like a treat or a tasty bit of found garbage. When I swam across a river or got caught in a rainstorm, there was that glorious feeling of water cascading through my fur, and the fun of shaking it off later on. Water was one of my favourite things, as Maxine.
I divided my precious time into three chunks: time spent roaming, in the city as well as in the countryside, time spent with Bernard, my city friend, and time spent with the Hogans, my farm family.
It was a nice long hike from family to friend. I was in good physical shape, my coat glossy, my teeth clean and pain-free, my belly full and often rubbed.
If someone was cruel to me, I avoided them, and those like them. I had a long memory.
If someone frightened me, the hair on my shoulders would rise up, so I looked bigger than I was. Whether I retreated or not depended on the immediacy of the threat.
Like when that man opened the back gate at Bernard’s house, and walked up to the back porch, where I was dozing in the shade. It was a hot day. He wore grey work pants, and a t-shirt with printing on the front, which I could not make out. He was stocky, and balding, with a day’s worth of beard.
I didn’t know why he made my fur rise, or an almost inaudible growl to burn in my throat. Except that he smelled like blood.
Bernard came to the screen door and they talked. I could usually understand what Bernard was communicating— in this case, welcome and curiosity— but this man was as opaque as a moonless sky.
I had no choice but to bark, and I did. I was only a dog’s length away from where they were standing at the door.
Bernard didn’t ignore me. He never did. The man scowled at me in irritation, but took a step back.
Bernard put on a polite smile. He called to me, and we went into the house. He waved the man off. He closed the screen door, and the heavy wood door.
I got a fresh bowl of water and a milk bone.
The man in the grey trousers, meanwhile, went into the lane, and towards the next house, where a schoolteacher lived.