I need to learn more about the physics of locomotion in powerful dogs. Dexter is a beast, a dynamo, an inexorable tectonic plate of a dog, but he is also unaggressive and could be taught to lope instead of strain. If he were mine, I would train him to haul me about in a sleigh. He would have a purpose for his muscle, I would reward him richly and together we could fly above snowy fields as if we had emerged from an absurd sort of Russian novel.
Dexter weighs about 60 pounds and mixes Lab and American Bulldog with some whisper of Greyhound. When he is pulling, his thigh muscles appear in thick bunches and all four legs purchase a deep traction; his chest puffs out, his sinews wired and revealed in striations. He is all energy, his body a visible, swelling mantra of IMustMoveIMustMoveIMustMove. He needs a ½ hour running flat out in one of the paddocks. When I stop him at a stump and sit and turn him towards me, his big head looms up, intent, trying to read my eyes. Calling his name once, again, he finally steadies himself and waits, and when I place my cupped hand under his jaws, he becomes set, patient, but he does not melt. He is carrying too much restlessness inside to give himself over to a connection. We heave along the path toward the kennels.
I have been at the Refuge long enough now to have seen dogs I thought no one would choose go away with a family, a couple or one man or woman who saw their potential within their fear or shyness or detachment. Most of the time, the pairing sticks — those experiences kindle a tiny glow of faith in me for our tired species. Who is not looking for yet one more life to walk next to him or her? One Thursday morning I will arrive, and Dexter will be gone. His name will appear on the white-board where we can read the names of those adopted in the past week. Someone will have looked at Dexter and seen a soul. He will have seen right through the force-field that now radiates off of him to the possibility of an honest companion, and he will have taken the chance. Only a few dozen people in the world will notice this tiny change but that will suffice for I have come to believe that even qualified offerings of faith are victories over indifference.