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A dog person's path to inner peace

My dog’s name is Zeus. He came with that name — a 40-pound mix with a harlequin face of white and gold, a very good-looking dog.

We are both early risers, though Zeus is better at it. He’s always quiet through the night, but once I turn on the bedside lamp, he’s all bounce and wagging tail. He knows it’s time to take the day’s first walk, notwithstanding that it’s 5 a.m.

In his view, I am too slow to move. With every step I take toward getting up and dressed, his enthusiasm heightens. He pops out of the bedroom into the hall and back, showing me the way we must go, again and again. By now his whole back end is wagging and his eyes are bright with expectation. I suspect that through him the universe has arranged a Pollyanna-ish little koan for my benefit. I feel vaguely chastised. I concede the point: this is how we should all greet the day.

As part of the ritual, I check my smartphone. The temperature this particular morning was at 27 degrees, but the helpful little weather app notes that it actually “feels like” 19. I convey this to Zeus, but his resolve is untempered. I get myself bundled up, and out we go.

The pre-dawn sky is exceptionally clear. There is a silvery sliver of moon, but the rest of the orb is also dimly visible, glowing softly from within the sharp clasp of the bright crescent. Where from this latent radiance? Is it the reflected Earth-glow in the moon’s lonely night? Yes, I think this is probably it.

As we start out, Zeus charges ahead; he pulls like a husky leading the Iditarod as I trundle along behind like an old wagon wheel, as broken as this metaphor. Once he’s made a few initial pee-mail stops, he mercifully eases up, slowing his pace to sniff out every metaphorical rose with his voyeuristic little nose.

My body is into the rhythm of the walk now, and my mind meanders. This may be as close to inner peace as I get. Rebecca Solnit puts it beautifully in this gem from “Wanderlust: A History of Walking”:

“Walking is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals.”

As I walk, unexpected tunes upload from a cache in my memory that seems to hold every song I’ve ever heard. I never know what’s going to pop up; each tune brings its own memories and associations, mostly good memories, nostalgic, seldom rueful or sad. Something about music memory filters out echoes of loss and remorse, the adversaries of inner peace.

I think of summery Sunday walks into town with my grandfather when I was a boy. He was always humming some little tune from his own cache. At his funeral I reflected that, while not a demonstrative man, he always kept a song in his heart. This comforts me now even more than it did then.

A line from Keats meanders into my consciousness: “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.”

We’ve passed the halfway point. Zeus stops and raises his snout to query a scent beyond my senses. He takes his time about it. I look up with him. As they always have, the stars compel me to momentary mindfulness in my meandering. There’s Orion, the bully of the pre-dawn sky, taunting Taurus, who lowers his horns against the challenge; and therein hide the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades, planning mischief, “deaf to men’s prayers,” according to an unknown Akkadian poet (c. 2000 BCE). Best not to dwell there. There is more hope than despair in all these constellations.

And so we have it: Zeus, the stars, the music, the multidimensional meandering, concocting my serendipitous elixir for inner quietude. For those like me who don’t come by inner peace easily, a humble suggestion: keep the music playing, and keep those tails wagging, no matter what.

Richard Carey lives in Ashland, happily retired from all forms of gainful employment. He now spends his time scribbling poems and in sporadic meditation, among other aimless pursuits. Email 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Sally McKirgan at innerpeaceforyou@outlook.com.