Two Black Dogs

A short drive up a dirt road after a long drive up a canyon, there is a cabin in the woods. Inside, there is a sleeping dog–wearing her coat of all-black fur, resting on her side, one upright ear has flopped over. She has sniffed every inch of this cabin since we arrived yesterday afternoon. Her job complete for now, she allows herself a brief intermission to do what puppies do– nap soundly and sweetly.

I am sitting in an armchair near the sleeping dog. I came to the cabin for a short reprieve, to escape the relentless tide of life’s obligations. Most of them, I left behind. But one, I can’t seem to shake. A black dog followed me up here, and not the one at my feet. It goes where I go, does what I do. It can be menacing and imposing, or familiar and safe. This black dog is of my brain’s own creation, made from worry and sadness and guilt. It was set in motion before I knew of its existence. It came from faulty neurotransmitters, genetic predispositions, and the fickle imaginings of chance.

The black dog at my feet jolts awake — a noise on the stairs. It is only the cabin creaking, so she returns to her slumber. We both settle into the peaceful sounds of the woods. A duck laughs on the pond. Swallows swoop and chirp over the water, plucking mosquitos from the sky. A gurgling brook feeds the pond, and its sound is a balm to a worn-out mind. But a balm cannot evict the black dog of depression. It howls its objection, then herds me back to bed, nipping my heels with fatigue and foggy thoughts. As I sink into sleep, I know that soon, my other black dog will come to wake me. She will breathe on my face and wag her tail. She will tell me that it’s time to get up, time to go out, time to take in the sounds and smells of this short reprieve in the woods.

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