The Look …. of Love

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

For those of you with dogs, what about those moments when your dog looks up straight into your face, eye to eye, feeling to feeling, direct soul contact….. no baggage. It must be the closest thing to adoration any of us will experience this side of the Pearly Gates. What a gift. What purity of heart. Who has not looked back into their dog’s eyes and known that, forgive me as I wax maudlin here, “THIS is love”. I find it humbling; because for all my devotion to my animals, I’m not sure I could muster such a pure expression of feeling for as many long, unadulterated seconds as they can. I’m just too distracted with things like paying bills and cleaning someone’s poop off the carpet.

The thing is, all animals have eyes. And if you give them time, build up trust, and bribe them often, they, too, will grace you with some long looks. Looks that can be unsettling, sometimes – because you know that you’re connecting with another world, another planet, another dimension. I’d guess that most of you have not had occasion to gaze into the face of a pig any time recently. Well, sir, it is scary in its profundity. It seems wrong somehow to say that they have human eyes, not only for the anthropomorphism. But those eyes are human, uber-human, too intelligent. That the language coming out is a series of high and low pitched grunts, (check our web site soon for a catalogue of pig grunts, free only to the first 25 users) fools many into thinking that pigs are boors. Or boars. Or whatever. Look, it’s elementary that Tetsuro the potellied pig knows his name; what is far more fascinating is what is going on inside, behind the eyes. That guy is thinking about stuff, all the time. He may know the living God, have the keys to achieving Zen; at the very least he’s great at uncovering underground springs. I know you’re just waiting for me to reveal the full secret of a pig’s mind, but honestly, I am totally clueless. So much for higher education.

Way, way before I lived on my own farm, I visited other farms. Well, OK, I only visited one, but that one farm was extremely cool. City-raised, with a taste for fancy Italian restaurants and silk skirts, I didn’t expect to actually like being in the country, but my friend had lured me with New Year’s champagne in the barn. So I went. And that, as they say, was that.

Something that struck me most vividly on that first visit to Michele’s farm was the way her blue-eyed wooly goats would stand in a huge group and just look at me. It had never occurred to me, frankly, that goats would want to look at much of anything in particular, never mind me. They seemed to be assessing …. what? Danger? Friend or foe? Level of goat IQ? Bribe potential? Silly me, I looked back right at them and I suspect that is when they put the goat spell on me.

Those eyes followed me through the years. I started talking of goats even while living in a DC basement apartment. I talked through two subsequent suburban dwellings, I talked in downtown Chinese restaurants, on the subway, to friends, landlords, and work colleagues. I and talked and talked, and only a few kinds souls listened with any interest. That is to say, I really got little encouragement on the goat front (Gee, I wonder why) but when a person is determined to do something, here is the confounded proof that there is no stopping her.

So this phenomenon, this goat hypnosis thing, with dozens of them bunching together and watching you as with one set of eyes: my flock does the same thing. Folks, I’m here to tell you it’s unnerving. I’ve bottle-raised some of these animals from one day old, cleaned their bottoms, dressed their wounds, dried their tears (OK, I’m lying about the tears part); others I’ve saved from the dinner plate, and then there is Mr. Newman Goat whom I took in off the street, no questions asked. Wouldn’t you think the looks I’d get might reflect gratitude, some dog-like adoration, even a little well earned obsequiousness? I could be cynical and say they are just watching to see if I’ve got corn in my pocket — but I do believe there is more to it. Some days it just creeps me out and I make a mad dash from the truck to the front door of the house, slamming it just in time to have it bashed by, what else, a goat. I wonder – have I created a herd of monsters? Will I wake up one day to find myself trussed up in duct tape, all the gates swinging open, my money and truck long gone?

When I get over trying to do threat assessments, and engage in some real serious looking back at them, I see a family of creatures who have no pretensions, no inhibitions, no fears (aside from Mr. Newman Goat’s horns), who are so at peace with the world that they are free, fact, to gaze unabashedly at humans. They may just love me for my pockets full of corn, but how often in this world do you encounter that much honesty?

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