Pepper and I often putter around the yard these days, crunching the dry brown leaves. I throw a frisbee and she sometimes bothers to catch it. Often she is more interested in the local wildlife – especially the squirrels.
Peppy lives for the chase. The especially smart squirrels dash out of the yard, knowing Pepper won’t cross the Line of Pain. Others dart up a convenient tree. It is these latter squirrels who torture her. She stays at the base of the tree, looking wistfully up, paws on the trunk. She circles the tree. She paws at the trunk again. By this time the squirrel is usually long gone, crossing from one tree into the next or retreating to an undisclosed location. Peppy is undeterred. She yearns for the squirrel in the tree with all her heart.
“Come, Peppy!” I called one afternoon as the day waned. “It’s dark! Time to go in!”
She stayed by the tree.
“Peppercorn!” I called again, more loudly. “Come!”
When I turned and opened the door to go inside, she came at a full gallop.
I poured her a bowl of Purina Pro Plan then began to prepare my own dinner. She inhaled her kibbles and settled contentedly in her spot in the kitchen.
“Pep,” I began. “This might be a little hard for you to hear, but I think we need to have this conversation. Do you realize that once a squirrel has gone up a tree, your chances of getting it are really almost zero?”
She was quiet.
“Once the squirrel goes up the tree, you should probably just move on to something else. Like looking for a rabbit in the bushes or scaring neighborhood walkers with your fearsome barks. You could even catch the frisbee every once in a while!”
She was quiet.
“It’s kind of a waste of time, you know, focusing on a squirrel you just can’t get. Are you hearing me, Pep?”
“Yes,” she answered evenly, “I suppose you’re right, though I hadn’t thought of it that way. It reminds me of something I read this weekend: ‘It is a queer and fantastic world. Why can’t people have what they want? The things were all there to content everybody; yet everybody has the wrong thing. Perhaps you can make head or tail of it; it is beyond me.’ The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford, 1915. That about sums it up, I suppose,” she concluded. She sighed – and I did too.
The next day, she got back to chasing squirrels. Happily!
And I kept chasing mine.
* * *
Thank you, Nathan Lane, for sharing this quotation from The Good Soldier in this weekend’s New York Times Book Review.