On our front door, we've hung a string of bells. I ring them every time I take the dog out. The idea is that the dog will learn to ring them too, whenever he needs to go. This was not my idea exactly, though I would love to claim it. The bells are designed for this. Routine conditioning through free association. The formula behind everything from great art to good manners. So now, it sounds like Christmas morning every time we go out the front door. I feel festive, like a child, full of a loopy anticipation. Out into the open spaces and the freedom limited only by stride and the length of the leash.
I can tell you, the bells work. Every morning after breakfast, Prince runs to the front door, and rings them. Then he turns to me and waits, expecting one thing to follow from another. He doesn't know the world is full of plans he doesn't understand, with lives and concerns larger than his. In that sense, it is a spare and unforgiving mirror both our children and our pets hold up to us in their innocence. But because his day revolves around mine like the moon, sometimes invisible, sometimes shining, the grace of that innocence is that my days may start with this small gesture of generosity now. I take up the leash, ring the bells, and we go.