The medieval Persian poet philosopher, Rumi, has a poem dealing with intelligence and tears that speaks to me of my life with Scotties. Translated by Kabir and Camille Helminski, the poem says:
Till the cloud weeps, how should the garden smile?
The weeping of the cloud and the burning of the sun
are the pillars of this world: twist these two strands together.
Since the searing heat of the sun and the moisture of the clouds
keep the world fresh and sweet,
keep the sun of your intelligence burning bright
and your eye glistening with tears.
(The Rumi Collection, edited by Kabir Helminski)
Sun and Cloud are the pillars of life with Scotties, too, for twining of intelligence and tears goes to the heart of the Scottie experience.
They are intelligent, to be sure, and that means owner mental dexterity is a must to keep up with them! They are thinking dogs, so do-it-by-the-book, non-thinking humans don’t make good companions for Scottish Terriers.
I can only speculate, of course, but I believe I see the wheels turning in Albie’s head as we approach the gate leading from the house to the corral. She’s now eleven, has impaired hearing, and her history includes at least one run-in with a donkey in which she got the worst of it.
Now, that gate is where goats and donkeys congregate like Wal-Mart ‘greeters’, as if conjuring their appointed feeder and food. And they grunt and sometimes head-butt, pushing and shoving to get close to me — just in case treats are available. So going through that gate, even hugging my feet as I go, is a calculated risk for a wee dog on four-inch legs. Timing is everything. So I see her ‘wheels’ turning as she scans how proximate the animals are to the gate, calculating whether she can dart through before the hooved greeters get in place.
More often than not for Albie, discretion is the better part of valor. She opts to stay on the house side of the gate. So, Burns and I go through, and Albie waits for us to return. Regardless of coaxing, she follows her own lights, her own risk computations. She’s a thinker.
Burnsie is the opposite mind-game for me. I guess in Scottie terms, he’s a multi-tasker, because his mind appears to work on several levels at once. And that’s the problem: I worry he’s not focused strategically, three jumps ahead, with reference to animals many times his size. While I’m feeding the four goats and seven donkeys he snuffles along smelling the ground in and around the barn in search of hoof trimmings which to him are candy chewables. He doesn’t always appear to leave himself a clear escape route should he need one. And it’s not enough to watch one large animal; he must intelligently anticipate the moves and hooves of eleven at once.
That, of course, is where Rumi’s “tears” come in. Intelligence, whether Scottish Terrier or human, is all about freedom to get it right but also freedom to get it wrong . . . to effect consequences of joy but also of tears.
Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way– for myself or my dogs. With Rumi, I will keep the Sun of my intelligence burning bright and my eyes glistening with tears. Life is the twining of Hope and Grief, of Intelligence and Tears.
But I insist there is in each of us, Scottie or human, something deeper than Rumi’s twin pillars. It is the ground upon which those pillars of intelligence and tears rest. Each soul is here not merely to die, but for its own singular joy. So the real risk today and every day in the choices made is not that we risk life; that is a given. The risk is that we miss our soul’s joy.
And that gift-wrapped truth that life is for living our joys, not our fears, is served up each day to me in Scottie-fur coats.
Joseph Harvill, publisher Great Scots Magazine