For the experiment, we went to a park that we had not visited before. It was totally empty when we pulled up, which was pretty rad. I put the long leash on her, and attached it to the leather leash around my waist. If I was going to go words free, why not hands free too, right?
It was hard for me to get used to not talking. Elka didn't seem to mind much. She noses a piece of bark at one point, in preparation to pick it up. I almost say no, stop myself at the ″nnnn″ sound, but she understands and leaves it. Unable to be entirely silent, I restrict myself to claps, or whistles, and body language in general. There are times she stops and looks at me, maybe confused at my muteness? Maybe to ask if things are all right? I yawned and looked away. She stops and smells the flowers; at least, I think she's smelling the flowers. She might just be smelling other dog pee. Which I tend not to think about, really.
Elka passes me and goes into the water, splish, splash, kerplunk, kerplunk, and freezes in place when the water is suddenly deeper, up to her chest. She looks at me, and then twists and jumps to bound out, and shakes once she's on dry land again.
I think I hear human voices getting closer, and then I realize it's a loudspeaker wherever it is that the construction is happening. I can hear the scree of tires on the highway overpass, but it's muted by the trees. Red and yellow leaves stir occasionally in the wind, and Elka pounces them with her paws, looking at me brightly afterwards, ″Did you see that?″
(for once, I captured the "did you see that?!" look)
There are pavilions near a tiny playground, aluminum walled and filled with picnic tables. I stand at one and point, to see what Elka will do. She sniffs a moment and puts her front paws on the bench. I give her a treat. I get out another one and hold it further away, to see if she'll get all four paws on the bench. She leans against me and stretches her neck as far as it'll go. I give her the treat anyway and scratch her back. The wind through the aluminum makes a strange thrumming noise, just this side of thunder, and she looks up; she likes watching thunder storms. Out of the sun, I realize how sweaty I've gotten, and looking at Elka, I can see how little energy this has taken from her.
I start walking again, and slap my thigh for her to heel. She does, looking up at me expectantly, and I wait until I don't think she can do it anymore and pull a rope toy out of my pocket. She grabs it and we tug for a moment, Elka mumble growling around the toy as she shakes it, and I realize I don't have a hand signal for ″drop it″. I snap my fingers (I can only do this with my right hand) and show Elka my empty hand. She lets go of the toy and jumps around like a rearing horse, tags ringing like sleighbells. Good enough.
With all I notice, I wonder what I also miss, out in the world. What can Elka smell that I can't? What can she hear? What do I see, that she misses? A pile of deer poop, for one. The color red. I figure it's time to go, and turn towards the parking lot. Other cars pulled up while we wandered, I turn to Elka, spell broken, and ask her if she can find the car. She perks up, a job to do, and glues her nose to the grass, traveling back and forth as though trailing our scent, her eyes on the direction my feet are pointed, and ″leads″ us back to the car.