Photo of Stephen Kuusisto and his second guide dog “Vidal”
I joke about Vidal, saying things like, “well he’s got a “complex”. “Back when he was a wolf he never knew when his next meal was coming.” In Graz, Austria he eats a bird’s wing while I sit up late under the moon in a garden with poets. The poets drink beer. Vidal snacks on raven feathers. For once he doesn’t cough them up. Does a dog who eats feathers fly in his sleep? Is he self medicating? What reckless medicines does he require and for what conditions?
The term for strange canine eating is “pica” and no one knows what causes it. Some say its a quest for missing nutrients. Others argue its just a form of attention seeking. With Vidal I sense its neither of these things—he’s the owner, the possessor really, of a very fast mind. He’s bored and the world is filed with wild promises.
I come to see his eating as pure curiosity. What’s inside the rose?
In Vidal’s view, both shade and silence are edible.
The fact is, he’s really smart.
Of course he is. But in his case something’s systematically deranged about the thing. I keep saying he’s good in traffic. He’s exceptional. Walking in downtown Graz he figures out how bike paths work—sees they’re potentially lethal—and moreover, sees I don’t understand them.
He pushes his body against my legs, prevents me from colliding with a cyclist who flaps like a banner.
Then, as I praise him, he eats some eggshells.