The dog woke up from his dream-filled sleep just a few miles before we reached Corley Services on a trip back from Essex to visit my dad again.
It had been a pleasant trip and I’d done some more clearance of the old house and had a car full of bags of..
‘What’s that stuff in the back of the car then? There’s a lot of it and it smells….. dry.’
I smiled, smells and food were the main drivers in his life, apart from when he’d sit in the garden and obsessively watch the ponies next door for hours on end. He still hasn’t told me why.
‘It’s books, hundreds of them, I’m going to give them to a charity shop.’
His nose wrinkled in question.
‘It’s a shop that sells mostly second hand things that people donate and they use the money for good causes.’
One ear flopped back down again as he pondered this point.
‘And you’ve finished with these books?’
‘Yes I’ve read them all, some a few times and I don’t want to throw them away, I’d like somebody else to read them.’
He was silent for a while, his huge amber eyes gazing up at me me from his little bed on the seat next to me.
‘Do you think that you could teach me to read?’
I looked carefully at him, both ears were up and he looked serious.
‘ I don’t know, maybe. Trouble is that you can’t turn a page or power up a Kindle, so it won’t help a lot. Why do you want to do that?’
‘Well. First of all, I’d like to be able to look at the signs on the road and read the speed of the car, because I’m not sure that you can actually read those things yourself.’
I smiled, he had me there. ‘And what else?’
‘What else? Everything else. I listen to you talking on your conference calls and when we go out and I can hear the hesitation and the lies in some of those voices and I just KNOW that they haven’t understood anything. And I want to understand. I want to know the truth about things. It’s not that I don’t believe you, but……’
His nose wrinkled in the expression that I’ve come to call ‘Cartoon Dog’, a multitude of complex emotions passed across his face and I waited for him to finish.
‘But… I just want to be able to make my own mind up about things and I’m surprised at how many humans can’t or don’t. It’s scary for me because they could decide that dogs are bad just because somebody said so.’
He had a point, people were becoming easily swayed by emotional arguments that bore no logic or relationship to the real world at all.
‘I still don’t think that I can teach you to read what you want to. How about if I read to you occasionally and we can have a think about what it is that we’ve read and heard?’
Both ears were now fully up and he regarded me carefully.
‘Promise? Can we start with the little book that you take into the garden sometimes?’
‘The Hagakure? Yes I don’t see why not, it’s a sort of philosophy and instruction manual all in one. It’s probably a good place to start.’
The amber eyes glowed for a second
‘Will it help me sort those ponies out?’
And with that, he curled up and went back to sleep.
And I murmured some remembered words from the book to him while he dozed
‘The extent of one’s courage or cowardice cannot be measured in ordinary times. All is revealed when something happens.’