The Forwards Dog


If you stroke a shark on the nose, it goes into a trance.

Even so, I wouldn’t read this and then go out and find a shark and stroke his nose. This does not work with all sharks, I believe, and I’m hazy on how to tell a shark which likes being stroked from a shark which will relieve you of your hand if you try.

If you chose the wrong shark it might take exception to having its nose stroked, and that would be regrettable.

And then there’s the whole shark-must-keep-moving controversy.

Most sharks- I believe – extract oxygen from the seawater which passes over their gills like all self respecting fish. And when they are stationery, they pump water across their gills to keep things moving.

But a small number of shark species do not have the pumping ability and so they are compelled to wander the oceans, restlessly, ceaslessly travelling, questng for the oxygen which is their life blood.

They cannot travel backwards: only ever forwards.

Like synapses. They are one-direction events, the little firings of electricity which bring the brain alive. Every cell has its recievers at one end and its transmitters at the other, and the electrical impulse can only jump from the transmitters – Β or terminals – to the recievers (dendrites) of the next cell. You never get backfiring. It’s not in the nature of the cell.

And that’s how my dog works, too.

Though he can travel backwards, don’t get me wrong. He does comedy-reverse moves whenever he gets into a tight spot. He might decide it is impolitic to be between table-leg and chair to nab that tit-bit of pork chop.Β Or he walks between your legs, off somewhere, and suddenly realises the enormity of his social gaffe, and reverses out again hastily.

He can move backwards. Very much so, and usually with the result of felling some human nearby who did not expect such a nifty move.

But when he is out in the forest, he only ever takes notice of that which lies before him. This can prove useful: when an adversary is in his path he is put on the lead, and spends his time muttering threats and curses under his moustache, as the opponent walks past on a short leash.

But the moment the dog is past – even just a metre behind – he forgets everything. He forgets he was in deadly combat with a mortal enemy seconds before. All conflict evaporates and Macaulay thinks Ooooh, squirrel, and gambols forwards into the green beyond.

This works with everything. Squirrels. Deer. Dogs. Annoying lone men with munchable shins.

Macaulay moves forwards. Not because he is driven, like the shark, or built to do it, like a synapse; but because backwards does not even occur to him. When he faces forwards the past evaporates in the joyous sensations of the present.

What an incredible blessing. For Behind You never to dictate how In Front Of You should go.

Though, if we were ever accorded the same gift, might it be like the Midas Touch? What would it be like if we were only forward-looking, and incapable of learning the lessons of the near past?

I suspect mankind might be extinct.

Behind You is an important aspect of life, don’t you think?


33 thoughts on “The Forwards Dog

  1. Indeed, I do think that taking some time to look backward is important. While I’m an onward and upward sort, I often need a bit of boost from behind, hoping to not make the same mistakes and to recall what I did right. From my viewpoint of mankind, I’m not so sure we’ve learned many lessons as we seem to be making the same horrid mistakes when it comes to mankind, again and again. Still, like Macauley, I plod on . . .

  2. It would be a wonderful attribute if moving forward we automatically carried with us the wisdom learned from mistakes of the past, and didn’t need that backward glance. But, I think we need to occasionally sit down and contemplate where we’re going with a more dedicated look backwards. Then we can brush ourselves off and just move forward in confidence. There is a part of me that would love to live unburdened of the responsibility that comes with looking backwards. Go Macaulay!

  3. I wonder if this is a sign that I should celebrate the male commenter who told me he only reads my blog to look at my behind on the masthead?………

    I would love to trade places with Macaulay today. It would be a treat to be able to sniff from thing to thing to thing without another thought.

    1. It would. But I suspect that’s one of the good things about being a house dog, with never a care except whether the cat is going to get his chow. I am sure were he wild, he would know exactly what was behind him!

  4. The positives about moving forward is that Macaulay doesn’t drag the past around with him. Maybe humans could learn from that. Fewer regrets. Fewer worrying about old hurts. Just move on. Something to ponder, Kate.

  5. Z double-backs a lot – as if she left something behind in her first investigation. Mac is the more evolved dog, this I am certain!

  6. My father once told me that sharks close their eyes right before they attack, so the best thing to do is throw a rock in their mouths when their eyes close and thereby you can escape. My father used to tell lots of stories like this.

  7. Kate, thought that was chickens not sharks. I wear a shark tooth around my neck to ward off sharks, taxi cabs and zombies -it’s worked thus far.

    For myself, my thoughts tend to lean with the way of the dog of late, perhaps the present is where life is meant to be lived and improved upon for all and on a personal level. Dogs live by the nose, they go where there nose takes them.

    I read this tonight, not sure if it is relevant…’Look at your life as it is right now and live it, right now.’

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