Shiva and I don’t have much in common, it’s true. But one thing we do share is a deep affection, bordering on addiction, for novelty. In many ways I thrive on change. If I had unlimited resources and lived in fantasy land I would be thrilled to move to a new place every year and change jobs like I do clothes. Because I am a human living in modern society I have learned to be okay with living within a routine structure, as long as the details of that structure vary from day-to-day. From all my observations, Shiva seems to agree. Being a dog, she probably prefers a little more stability in her life, yet I’ve seen how excited she gets over a brand new toy or a new hiking trail. She likes knowing when her food is coming, but seems to appreciate if the menu is changed up every once in a while.
I could not agree more. Sure, eating Cheerios for breakfast every single day is better than eating nothing. If I had no other options, I could probably do it. However, after a week or so I’d start to feel restless, edgy. I’d have to start eating them dry or put them on a plate or in a mug instead of in a traditional bowl. Something, anything, no matter how small, to make them different.
I could be anthropomorphizing when I notice a similar boredom in my dog. It comes with the territory. Or maybe I am just projecting. But when we bring home a different variety of kibble or a new flavour of cookie, she seems to pay extra attention to me on our walks. She offers passive attention much more frequently and responds that much faster to her name. With new food in my pocket, she seems to look at me almost half as often as she looks at the ground.
Apparently novelty ranks right up there with mud.
At home, new toys, antlers, and even freshly laundered blankets seem to give Shiva an extra bounce. I like to keep her belongings on rotation, putting toys away and bringing out ones she hasn’t seen for several weeks. That way they always seem new. She growls a bit more when tugging with a different toy. Jumps a bit higher. We do the same with her chews. And I like to put a little something different in her Kong every day. Sometimes peanut butter, then yogurt, maybe pumpkin the day after. Keep her guessing.
All this craving for newness has caused us both a bit of anxiety as of late. The location of our new house doesn’t offer us very many routes for our twice-daily walks. Even more so now that it’s dark and the off-leash areas aren’t safe. That leaves us with exactly two directions making it impossible to switch up where we go on even a daily basis. Shiva and I are hitting our breaking point. I sense it in my own reluctance to head out the door and I see it in her restlessness at home. I am bored with the same scenery and she is clearly uninterested in the same smells.
That’s why tonight, when I noticed a new road had opened up in the industrial area a few blocks away, we practically ran all the way there. It wasn’t much. Just a new road connecting two old ones, but it was enough for us. There was a new hill to climb and newly planted trees to mark, new mud to scarf and a new view of the residential area beyond. We were both in bliss and lingered as long as possible. I made sure to take it all in from both sides. I don’t think anyone has appreciated new pavement more.
It’s the little things that help get you through. Maybe next week they’ll finally open up the grounds to the new high school they’ve been building. Now that would be a Christmas miracle!