Now that Comet’s full size, he and Gus will race. We take them on leashes across the street and up the first few feet of the path, and them have them stay while we unclip them. When we let them go, there’s this breakneck steeplechase of twin Golden butts pounding away from us. Once they get around the corner, I whistle them back, and there’s a renewed competition on the way back.
There doesn’t seem to be any way to truly compare their speeds, though, since Gus only runs full-out for tennis balls—regular trail joy doesn’t quite coax out his top speed—and Comet won’t compete for tennis balls, since he never once beat Gus. Now that he has a chance, he doesn’t know it.
I’ve been careful not to put them in direct competition for balls very often, since I didn’t want Comet to decide fetching was pointless, but he won’t try for it if Gus is going too.
So the question—who’s the fastest Golden alive?—will remain unanswered for the time being.
A dog lives in the present moment, free from the kind of specific, reflective memory we have and free from the forecasting logic of the future that hovers over us constantly. I hesitate to idealize that kind of mind without reservation, since it is precisely those qualities that enable us to better ourselves, to think morally about our actions, and to appreciate art, pain, and beauty.
However, I do like to share in those qualities when I see them in a dog that loves me in his own pure, limited way and runs back to me with fresh joy when I whistle that particular falling sound (stolen from hermit thrushes and my mother’s father) that Gus and Comet both recognize as a call to attend and return.
They seem to be able to contain the contradiction of wanting to run back to us and wanting to run ahead to new territory. The dogs sprint to return, but as soon as they’re told they’ve come back far enough, they wheel and sprint away down the trail. I wonder if a human being could ever simultaneously want to go backwards and forwards in space or in time without experiencing at least a little cognitive dissonance. Or perhaps there’s no cognitive dissonance when there’s no complex cognition in the first place.