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My dog is going blind. It is evident in how she bumps into the open doors of the fences that delineate my neighbors’ concrete front yards and my feet when they hang off the edge of the bed. She gets spooked every time she does it, her surprise then becoming my own—whoa, I didn’t see that there.
I used to walk her almost exclusively with earbuds in, a habit that started because I got her in the fall of 2020, when I did not have much to do but wander around with her for hours while listening to music. Her eyesight was better at the time. I enjoy listening to music while I walk, but in the last year or so I’ve been trying to do it less and instead opt for other kinds of aural delights: leaves crunching underfoot, a violinist in a subway station, an overheard conversation. Once I listened to two young women realize in real time that one of them was dating a guy who had ghosted the other.
Now that Mira is going blind, I basically feel it’s my responsibility to walk her without earbuds in so that I can more fully inhabit her reality. The other day we were halfway down my block, and some fireworks went off about a block away, and she jumped back in fright, tucked her tail between her legs, and tried to drag me back home. A neighbor, sweeping her front yard, remarked loudly that it wasn’t July. I replied that no, it wasn’t, and that now Mira would be spooked for the rest of the afternoon. The effort to be in her world, in that moment, also expanded my own.
A few mornings ago we were walking just south of my apartment, along a stretch of blocks lined with small houses and a few large apartment buildings. It was warm in the way that it is when the air is cold but the sun cuts through it; birds chirped, and the sound of construction emanated from someone’s backyard. There is a particular sound to small-scale home repairs, a kind of flat, persistent ringing that stops periodically, when someone gets tired; deliberate steps, creaky wood, muffled voices, accidental bangs, and, crucially, the sound of their echo, which is the sound of the space around the action. It is different from other kinds of construction noise; it is made by people, not machines. I grew up hearing that noise, construction seemingly ubiquitous around my house, my grandparents’ houses, the houses of friends. Maybe people are actually fixing their homes all of the time, and I just haven’t heard the resulting sound since I was a child because I’ve been going around with earbuds in my ears all of the time. Walking north on East 7th Street, I was thankful to Mira for the invitation to listen.
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