I suppose we are all prisoners to some degree. We are confined to a life of not fully realizing everything what the world has to offer. In other words, while we want to know everything, we can’t know everything. Sure we try. But the bottom line is that we can only know so much and accepting this allows us to deal with our limitations. To be a prisoner is to be confined; to have our liberty stripped away to the point of not being allowed to fully participate in everything we would like to participate in.
A dog’s life – while surprisingly easy and, at times, enviable – is characterized by this prisoner motif. For the purpose of this discussion, Reilly is the prisoner. Sharon and I, along with our son’s Adam and Liam, are the prison guards. Actually, I would probably be the warden since Reilly sees me as his master.
Each morning the prisoner wakes up when I wake up. He gets to go into the yard when I let him out. He gets exercise when I decide to take him for a walk – and, even then, the leash maintains my control over him. He eats when I decide to feed him. He sleeps when the family goes to their bedrooms. Sure he can walk around the house if he wants, but he can’t leave to go see his other dog friends or to pop out to the nearest fast food joint for a burger.
Actually a burger would be a bad idea for Reilly. He has a very bad stomach. We discovered this when he as a puppy. He would eat table scraps and the methane gas attack that followed was quite sobering. I remember hosting a Christmas party with some work colleagues and someone fed him bread or cheese or crackers and the fallout was too much to bear. He almost cleared the room. Fortunately people were so engrossed in the novelty gift exchange – and the fact that Reilly was ripping apart a gyrating robotic dog (didn’t like the gyrations or competition I guess) – that people held their positions until the gift exchange was finished.
Because of his sensitive stomach we have to feed Reilly a special dog food. We also put a spoonful or two of yogurt on his kibble. This keeps the gas in check and prevents the super-loud gurgles from taking over his intestines. This isn’t another digression because I am still talking about “Reilly the prisoner.”
At his evening feeding, the warden (remember: that’s me) puts the fancy food with the yogurt topping down on the floor. Reilly approaches the food slowly and respectfully and then starts chompin’. The steel bowl rattles against the steel frame that keeps the bowl from slipping. If my wife and I are talking nearby we have to stop because the prisoner is making so much noise. This goes on for a few minutes everyday and Sharon and I compare it to one of those prison movies where a riots breaks out in the cafeteria and all you can here is the clattering of the steal plates and cups as the prisoners go wild.
While prison life is, by its very nature, a life of limitations, there are also a few perks. Reilly doesn’t have to think too much – he just has to be cute and a little bit obedient. His prison guards and warden love him and treat him with respect. He gets to sleep pretty much wherever and whenever he wants.
I also know I’m a good warden because when I take him off leash either out front of our house or in the valley on our walks, he never takes off. He accepts the limitations of prison life and appreciates the upscale prison we provide for him.
I suppose I could learn a lesson from Reilly. For example, sometimes I feel imprisoned by my job. I am locked into a schedule and only get so much money for the work I do. If I compare my salary to others, I am making way more than some and way less that others. I envy the hell out of those making a lot more than me because of the liberty and opportunity those few extra loonies brings them.
More than anything, I feel imprisoned by the amount of time my job occupies. In reality, I have much more time off than most. But I still feel imprisoned by the clock and I resent the fact that I don’t have more freedom to do what I want.
Then I remember that little white prisoner, back at the detention centre, living his limited life and accepting his lot. My job affords me the opportunity to do things I might not otherwise do and share experiences with people that serve to enrich my life.
It also gives me a second, more enjoyable job: Warden of a prison with a population of one. He’s a model prisoner who will never get released for good behaviour.