Deep thoughts with a poodle

It’s 6am and I’m standing in the rain with my poodle.

We arrived in Netarts, OR last night around 7. It’s January in the Pacific Northwest, so the sun set hours ago and it feels much later than it is. The rain came down hard on us the entire way over the coastal mountain range and immediately stopped once the two-lane highway deposited us outside of Tillamook.

We are taking advantage of the long weekend to sit and stare at the ocean. I hope to do some reading and drawing this weekend. I left my home office in a rush, forgetting my hydra of charging cables and leaving work undone. We stopped at Burgerville on the way out of Portland. Did you know you can sub a veggie patty on any of their burgers? It’s not bad.

We arrive in the dark and miss a couple of poorly marked turns and find our beach rental. Beach rentals are always weird and I love them for it. Something is always broken, crooked, wonky, or held together with duct tape. The weather on the ORegon coast is spiteful most of the year and wants to destroy your pitiful man-made things. Nothing stays nice for long.

The house is toasty warm, with way too much wood paneling and wonky mismatched lighting. I pour myself a whisky and we relax into the evening as best we can. The poor poodle, though, can’t relax. He arrived in the dark and has not been able to properly secure the perimeter, so he is agitated. After several damp trips outside, he begins to settle.

There is a queen bed and a couch. It’s vacation rules, so the poodle gets to sleep with us. But a queen bed is a tight fit for our long, tall bodies on nights without a poodle. I opt for the couch.

Around 1:30am the poodle is awake again and my wife takes him out to pee. He woke and remembered he is not at home and the perimeter is still not secure. After they return from outside, he still won’t settle. I take him out twice more. When I lay back on the couch he stares at me as if to say “this is not right you belong over there”. I crawl into the queen bed and he jumps up with me. Better to be together than comfortable.

At 6am I’m awake and throw on yesterday’s clothes and feed the poodle. I take him out for the morning. He’s ready to explore. I patiently explain that it is very dark and raining and besides, no.

We wander the yard for a bit. In the still-dark morning I can make out the other side of the Netarts Bay across the water and maybe I can see the ocean beyond or maybe it’s clouds.

The poodle catches sight of a boat out on the water. I assume it’s a fishing boat. He sits on the shell-covered driveway to watch and listen. I wonder what he thinks about boats. Does he relate them to cars? Does he recognize them as human things or just motion and sound to monitor. Is the sound of a motor familiar or just noise?

I stand and watch the boat with him. I see the boat has  a friend farther out in the bay. The first boat has stopped and has begun to sweep the coastline with a great searchlight. The other boat does the same. Not fishing boats after all.

Is someone lost? Is there a maniac on the loose? You never know what you’ll find in wild, wooly Oregon.

I think about how my poodle knew there was something odd  happening before I did. And I think about his thoughts and how they are unknowable. I think about how these unknowables fill me with wonder while other unknowables fill me with dread.

I gave up eating meat a little over a year ago. I tell people this was largely for my health. But really, if I’m honest, I realized that if my spoiled dog has so much personality, wisdom, and such a rich emotional state, a cow probably does too. If I couldn’t justify eating my dog, I probably can’t justify eating a cow.

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