Within barking distance

We live in an apartment complex with 10 buildings, each seven storeys high. As can be expected, there are plenty of families with dogs, but it is not something I ever paid attention to earlier. I’d stop to pet a dog or two but I never really noticed how many of them were around.

All that changed of course once we adopted these two dogs. We’ve seen new dimensions about our colony, its people and its dogs in the process of taking our own for a walk around the peripery of the compound. Ronnie, the elder one, has a love-hate relationship with all the other dogs in the complex (he either loves them and whines and pulls to go cuddle them, or he hates them and barks and pulls to go fight them). So going out for a walk with him invariably means being hyper-aware of any oncoming pet — whether canine or feline — since he is going to bark, tug and pull in the direction of the other creature, either way. Naturally, we’ve had to develop sharp eyes and ears when we go out with him.

In this process, I noticed something quite interesting lately — when one dog barks, all others within our colony begin barking from all their flats and corners, like a raucous symphony. They can’t see each other, I don’t know if they are communicating something, but I do know that every time my Ronnie growls, woos or calls out to a passing dog, there is a response from all the other canines of our complex. Surprisingly, street dogs just outside do not participate, nor do the dogs in the neighbouring building complex though they’re just feet away. It’s as if they recognize barks as one of their own, or not.

Similarly, if another dog barks while Ronnie is snoozing away at home, he suddenly springs up from his slumber and responds energetically with his loudest bark. Miyake, who does not bark at other dogs while on her walks, will also do so when in the safety of her own home — making her presence felt from the balcony or an open window.

We are all interconnected — no man or woman or dog is an island. We are affected by what happens to others around us; we in turn affect others with our actions and choices. Every time my dogs start up in response to the neighbourhood barking choir, I am reminded of this fact. The humans of my residential complex may play down their human connection with each other — turn our eyes away when we walk past each other, look at the elevator panel instead of each other when in it together, ignore the sounds in other homes — but we are intrinsically connected whether we like it or not.

No, of course, I’m not just talking about the people in my colony. The connection extends to those in my district, city, country, world. It extends across time, across generations and centuries. We have the same DNA, after all.

And why stop at humans? We’re connected to our dogs, the shrubs they pee on, the grass we walk on, the trees that purify our air, the air that envelops the earth. We’re connected to all the animals, plants, living beings, atoms across time, across space, across imaginations. By virtue of being alive, we’re part of an eco-system that has taken millions of years to evolve. We are part of that evolution, of that intent of the cosmos to live — to live to its fullest. We’re connected to God.

We can’t shut off all the gadgets, the books, the mindsets, and pretend we are isolated or alone. We’re all connected. Ties may be invisible but they exist.

Bow wow.


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