In the last blog, I extolled the virtues of Solda (Sulden), Italy. Kathrin and I planned a return trip to Solda for her Birthday in mid August. There is a Mexican proverb that says, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." Flashback to mid July, I did my first mountain bike venture down one of the local Feldberg "flow trails." In short, it was my first real mountain bike ride and it did not end well for me, unless you are the type who finds emergency rooms in the time of COVID 19 entertaining.
And so I committed to stay in our little village with Rumi while Kathrin, Sugu and her mom headed South to the Ortler mountain group. This would be the first time since we introduced Rumi and Sugu to our family that they would be apart for more than a few hours. Admittedly, I was sore to not be joining Kathrin for her birthday and the sojourn to Italy. However, I understood that some mother-daughter time is invaluable. And to the point, so is some father- daughter time (i.e., me and Rumi).
A good local friend here realized my situation, 10 days home alone with Rumi. She described me as "Strohwitwer." A rough translation denotes a "grass widower." A part of me was ecstatic to have some "me" time, akin to George Castanza revelling in his power to stay home alone because he could "walk around in his underwear and eat cheese" (a nod to "Seinfeld" if you know it). What I quickly remembered is that I wasn't alone. I had Rumi. Sure, she is "just a dog" but there is no such thing. Dogs are family with a specific personality and needs that require much attention. The dynamic of being one-on-one with another person (or canine) for any prolonged term is altering. In my view, either there is a deep bond, or a deep divide created. Kathrin and Sugu were always here to entertain, support and provide some artifice that allowed me a distraction from spending real time with Rumi.
Rumi is a peculiar, but in some ways stereotypical, young lady. This is likely the point in the blog where I get into trouble with the distaff side. She, Rumi, is Machiavellian in getting what she wants. A testament to her intelligence and raw desire. In a former life I knew the persona from life in Miami, and admittedly I probably dated a few of these types. As with any dog, Rumi's "wants" tend to revolve squarely around food, and occasionally an emergency pee-pee walk, and at worse an escape into the woods alone for several hours. The point to this is that Rumi has a certain human quality to convey her desires in the most subtle of ways. She is never vocal, never aggressive and only ever jumps as high as she needs too, like any good horse. However, "she's got Betty Davis eyes." That is she has so many expressions she can convey with just a look, and I find myself powerless in certain moments. To further reference music, Billy Joel describes her best:
She can kill with a smile, she can wound with her eyes.
She can ruin your faith with her casual lies.
And she only reveals what she wants you to see.
She hides like a child but she's always a woman to me.
She can lead you to love, she can take you or leave you.
She can ask for the truth but she'll never believe you.
And she'll take what you give her as long as it's free.
This is not intended to be cynical, rather a fascinating perspective on the genius of dogs, or more specifically, the Shikoku Ken. There is a complexity to the species, much of which I attribute to its intelligence. They communicate without words, as they must, but their message is no less forceful. They are capable of conveying volumes with a simple look, a sound, or an attitude. Rumi's brother Sugu is no less effective, he simply never comes off as meretricious or duplicitous. He, unlike Rumi, is not a ruthless opportunist. He has an honesty in his gestures that never surprise you once you know him. Rumi, however, will casually walk behind you, hoping that you are out of sight, and then disappear for a lengthy sojourn of forest exploration.
In years past, I consciously elected to live a somewhat solitary life... a life I can hardly imagine anymore and would not recognize today. I guess my revelation is that during my extended period without Kathrin and Sugu, I found myself needing Rumi as much or more than she needs me. So there was no walking around half naked eating cheese, but there was a routine I greatly enjoyed. Namely, long walks with Rumi in the forest, dinner together, playing and talking different languages and snuggling in bed each night. There was a time when I craved structure, order and cleanliness. That time has long passed. Rumi teaches me to be okay with messy floors, dirty cars, paw prints throughout the house and a degree of disorder that reflects life. I suppose my obsessive compulsive disorder is in full view by now, but it is waning by the day thanks to the lessons Rumi and Sugu have taught me.