At least half the dogs in our neighbourhood these days are less than a year and a half old.
The pandemic puppy phenomenon did not pass us by around here, and every day as we go for our walks in the rain, shine, epic heat or brutal cold, we encounter so many other of these pandemic pups in the park.
Pups who have neither care nor concern that the very pandemic that forged virtually every aspect of their lives to date still has a lingering subtle effect on their human companion’s day-to-day.
Some day, maybe even soon, things will go back to normal… ish.
But maybe not quite yet.
It’s hard to say whether dogs are philosophical observers of the universe around them, wondering at the world as it flits past their existential mindset … or if they are simply easily distracted.
I think I’d like to think it’s the former.
My dog and I go on three walks a day lately. This time last year, just as the snow was starting to fall, she was a two-month-old puppy and was limited to exploring the world on a short leash in the containment of our backyard.
A year later, and we’re touring the neighbourhood by foot with regularity, often meeting new people and new dogs, stopping to sniff virtually anything … well, she does most of the sniffing.
I’m not oblivious to the world around me, but after forty-five years something as mundane as a patch of grass sticking from the snow or a blue jay sitting on the branch of a tree is ordinary enough that I think my brain just naturally tunes it all out.
But not her.
Everything is a curiosity. Everything is worth stopping and savouring. If that’s not the definition of existential delight at the world … and if we can’t learn a even just little bit from that .. I don’t know what else there is to say.
Living in the suburbs, and in particular a suburb that butts up squarely against a natural river valley preserved against development, it’s not uncommon to have the occasional run in with wildlife. I’ll often see coyotes or deer when I’m out running and extending my range into theirs.
When the reverse is true, those critters extending their range back into our habitat, things take a turn for the strange and curious.
You probably don’t know a lot about this guy yet, but Gaige is the kind of guy who upon running up against a midlife crisis here in the digital era has decided that he wants to get away from his work-a-day lifestyle and spend more time out and about in the wood.
In fact, he started a YouTube channel and has been uploading amature documentary-style videos of his wandering “adventures.”
To date, this is basically a lot of nature walks and campfire cooking tutorials.
And, I know what you’re thinking: “Gee whiz, this guy sounds a little bit like the author of this blog I’ve been reading. Are you sure they’re not connected somehow?”
To which I reply: “We all have our stories to tell, and this is one of those stories.”
Because as certainly as Gaige and his dog are just starting to meddle in some small local adventures, the moment will certainly come when he’s going to start stepping a little further… and further… and further out of his comfort zone and trying to tackle the interesting types of things that attract viewers and subscribers and …
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
For now you’ll just need to be contented knowing that as Gaige steps out into the world he’s bound to encounter a whole swath of surprises. And wildlife doing wild things are just the tip of a very big iceberg.
As much as I’ve been spending time fine-tuning my campfire cooking skills, I’ve been thinking about all the small ways that effort has translated into a bit of backyard humour, too.
Having a teenage daughter helps. She often and candidly points out all my shortcomings. Free of charge. “I’m embarrassed for you, dad.”
Or more recently, “The ribs are burnt, dad. I can’t eat this.”
They we’re not burnt. They were crispy.
So it goes that in episode two of Gaige and Crick I tried to do what I always do when I write up a script for a new comic: take a dash of real life and salt it heavily with a bit of exaggeration.
Perhaps you too have spent some time cooking over a hot flame recently. Watching the professionals barbecue juicy meats over sizzling coals looks like knowledge that should be baked into our genes, locked into the primal ancient skillset possessed by every human on the planet. If I need to grill a hunk of flesh over a fire, darn it, that is my legacy as a participant in the human race. Right?
The hot grease that dripped from my slow-cooked ribs was hardly the ignition source for a mushroom cloud, but it sure felt that way when my meticulously prepared coals and carefully laid plans turned into a small inferno a few seconds into the grilling process.
Gaige is in over his head, it often seems. He so desperately wants to be a professional. He so eagerly wants to build himself up as a something he is not. Luckily Crick’s head is a little closer to the ground.