Thursday, January 7, 2010

Reactions To Coming Home

As we neared home on our recent trip I found myself noting what I was thinking and comparing that with how the dogs were reacting.  Yes, it was totally silly, but it was amusing.

I, for example, was worried.  All the worst possible things go through my mind.  What if the house has burned down and no one called to tell us?  What if someone broke in and robbed us blind while we were gone?  What if someone is doing that just as we arrive?  Yes, I suppose these things are possible, but they don't merit concern until you discover they have happened, and why the heck do I only worry about them as we approach home, instead of for the entire two weeks we've been gone?  I worry about them none the less.  In some ways I am a compulsive worrier.

Then, as we get closer and we're on roads I drive often enough to know well, I start noting the things haven't changed.  We were only gone two weeks, but I still have to note that "the store is still there, right where it was when we left."  I try not to voice these idiocies out loud (google "My you're very tall" in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams for why not) but they do run through my head. What kind of neurosis is that?

Dogs, on the other hand, are a lot simpler in their reactions.

Having spent almost three days in the car, they are tired of it and want a change.  Our older dog - Leah - started sitting up nearly an hour from the house.  Something must have smelled right as it was dark by then and there wasn't much to see.  Still, she was alert to our arrival early on, even before we were on roads she knows from experience.  She watched out the windows and then pushed in to sit between the front seats and look forward as we hit familiar roads.

Danno, our younger (and dumber) dog, was mostly oblivious until we were only about fifteen minutes from home.  It was probably only after he picked up on something from Leah's actions that he, too, had to sit up and pay attention.

Both dogs exuded a kind of calm anticipation at this point.  They knew what was coming and looked forward to it, but there wasn't much celebration yet.  Some years ago a similar return home with Leah included barking with happiness for the last four miles.  I guess age - she's roughly ten - has mellowed her.

Once the car actually stops, of course, both dogs are dying to get into the house and back into territory they actually know.  The excitement is profound, though still relatively quiet.  By then, however, my own anticipation is basically over.  The house is still there, unchanged, and what faces me are the tasks that go with arriving at home: turn on the water heater, start the heat pump, unpack the stuff we have to have tonight, and so on.  I'm already in task mode while the dogs are romping and enjoying the return of familiar surroundings.

All of this only goes to show that our dogs are smarter than me, at least.  My wife would tell you that's an obvious conclusion.