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  • Like many middle aged women, I follow the “use it or lose it” motto to keep some semblance of fitness. I go for a 2 mile walk about 4 mornings a week before work, taking the family dog, Zagnut, with me. Unlike me, he is not concerned with trying to stay healthy-- he just wants a good sniff and a chance to leave his “business cards” in certain areas. I enjoy his company and his 100lbs makes me feel very safe when walking the wooded (no houses) area near the power lines. He is a good walking companion and an excellent family dog.

    One morning a couple weeks ago, the town had mowed along the street sides, leaving lots of chopped grass. In that area, a neighbor mowed his lawn and left the clippings in the same vegetative mulch. With the New England heat and humidity, all this organic material started to ferment and decompose. I didn’t know this, but I am sure Zag’s nose could sniff the material a half mile away.

    We came to this area, which was also one of the “business card” spots. I noticed how keen he seemed to be to get over there. I thought he must really need to go, so we stopped and I asked him to sit. I often do this, my way of asking for respect, and he waits for the command “okay” before sniff time. He looked ready to spring from his sit. I issued the “okay”, and he went over to the grass.

    At which point he threw himself, all of himself, to the ground before I could even take up the leash slack. He rolled, and rolled, and rolled. With his motion, the grass odors became apparent. Oh my, the smell! He was going to stink from head to tail. I should pull him away, before it gets any worse.

    I couldn’t do it.

    He was smiling as dogs like him do, belly up, wriggling left, wriggling right. He would pause on a twist, push his nose in the mucky grass and suck in a huge breath, then start the twist anew. He immersed himself in the clippings, bending and twisting and flipping and flopping his whole body. Happiness seemed to ooze from every millimeter of him.

    I watched, completely taken in by his complete and total abandon, his total joy. He was in the moment. There was no worry about anything. I found myself a bit envious of him, of his animal nature. Animals tend live in the here and now. They are, to my way of thinking, “very Tao”. They just “are” and that is that.

    I let Zag enjoy his most glorious of rolls. At that moment, he was more than the family dog. He was my teacher and I let him teach.

    Author’s note: Zagnut is a southern rescue dog from Ozarks Mutts and Stuff. His entire litter was scheduled for euthanasia because Lab mixes like him were deemed unadoptable. Ozark Mutts and Stuff rescued the puppies and placed them all over the country, including many to New England. My family is grateful for the gift they gave us.
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