He stands astride me, head down, looking into my eyes, waiting for me to understand.
He does not snarl or snap. He is not angry or aggressive. He is sad and patient and quietly beautiful.
If I let myself return his gaze, let him fill my mind, like ink dropped into a glass of water, a truth emerges. The real me, the one the black dog and I can smell beneath the cologne of my day-to-day life, is not O.K.
My daily attempts to lead a civilized life, to immerse myself in my work, my books, my wife’s inexplicable love for me, flounder because they start from the false premise that I am O.K.
The Black Dog knows that I know this. His message, drilled into me by his sad brown eyes, is simple: “We both know you’re failing. Be kind to yourself. Admit it. Then you can stop trying.”
On the worst days, I hug the Dog to me, thank him for the truth he has shared and the permission that he has granted and I wallow in all the things that I should be but am not.
The hug makes the Dog bigger until it seems that there is nowhere I can go that is not in his shadow and the world reduces to me and the Black Dog and the truth we share.
On the best days, I look into the Black Dog’s eyes and acknowledge that it’s very likely I will fail but that I won’t fail today. Then I scratch him behind the ears, reach for his leash and he and I go for a walk.
Until next time.