Friday, December 29, 2006

A stretch of river XXIX: Scruffy's past

It happened again this morning on our walk.

Most of the time, Scruffy pays little attention to passing traffic, no matter the size of the vehicle or the noise it makes. But for some reason, he becomes quite exercised whenever white trucks with loud rattling noises pass by us: he rears up on his hind legs and happily--not angrily--strains against his leash, watching the truck pass and wanting to follow it. His behavior is so specific, happening as infrequently as it does, that I can be as precise as I am in describing it.

I've had some pleasure in the past in creating a legendary past for our dog, but Scruffy's actual past, his life before Mrs. M. saw his picture on that website and we drove an hour to the Humane Society's facility in Emporia, Kansas, to meet him, is all but a mystery to us. The farthest back we can trace it is to his actual stay at the pound: the attendant told us that he had been there for a few months and had stayed alive as long as he had because people kept showing interest in him but would later decide against adopting him. We don't know whether he was a stray or had been brought in.

So when, as happened today, a rattle-y white truck passes and Scruffy behaves as he does, I can't help but wonder. Did his previous owner own such a truck? Perhaps the Emporia pound's truck was such a vehicle, and while at the pound Scruffy would be thrilled by its arrival, since that would mean more dogs coming, and Scruffy, as I've noted in the past, loves meeting other dogs. But Scruffy cannot tell; he can only show, and then only incompletely--which is to say, less completely than we can.

The Past is not a fixed and static thing but a constantly-shifting, edited recollection of it, not all of it shared equivalently with--or, for that matter, collectively agreed-upon or understood in the same way by--all people. Scruffy, I assume, doesn't muse, Proust-like, over the what-ifs and might-have-beens of his past; he doesn't bury the unpleasant stuff. It's all there, close to the surface, ready to be revealed when some stimulus--like Proust's madeleine, come to think of it--triggers it. But what Scruffy reveals in such moments to Mrs. M. and me is not his past but the mystery of his past, its ultimate unknowability.

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Lori Witzel said...

I got chill-bumps from:

"The Past is not a fixed and static thing but a constantly-shifting, edited recollection of it..."

And loved the scruffy pic of Scruffy.

John B. said...

Thank you for commenting, though I hope the chill-bumps were pleasant and not awful ones.

The pic of Scruffy is courtesy of Mrs. M.