Our backyard is enclosed by a seven-foot privacy fence, the kind that alternates planks so that there is a narrow gap between each. On one side, our neighbors have two dogs who participate in vigorous fence-barking and running with our two dogs, especially 95-pound Cid, who learned this game from Kismet, the next-door dog back in Maryland.
After a few months, I noticed that as they all raced up and down the fence line I was seeing what I thought at first was Pongo’s shadow through the fence. A few weeks later I realized, no, I was seeing Pongo’s entire body, because my brain was creating a whole out of the pieces, like an animated film.
It reminded me of something my friend Michael Cook said after 9/11 when I sent him that famous photograph of the smoke pouring out of the top of one of the towers in the shape of the devil’s face. He claimed he couldn’t see the devil’s face in the smoke, but said the human mind is constantly seeking to create order out of chaos.
So, I wonder how Cid senses Pongo. Probably as a vast odor and sound of barking and flash of white teeth (his nose is constantly slightly scratched now). Maybe that’s why if he sees her in her front yard when he is on the front porch, he resolutely looks in the opposite direction. There are rigid conventions in dogdom and the fence game is one of them. What happens along the fence stays along the fence.
And what happens when we humans fill in the blanks, stays with us, even when it’s really not the devil coming out of the World Trade Center, even when it’s wrong, even when it’s right.