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  • Writer's pictureMollye Miller


A micro essay I wrote about the abrupt imbalances of life, inspired by my dog's bark.

Every freestyle stroke, every sip of coffee, every shampoo scrub; every slurp of noodles, lap around the track, test taken, whether passed or failed; every kiss, every punch, every lone gunman; every burst of spray paint sprayed in the wet dark under a bridge; every high school basketball win or loss—it all begins with a bark. Through the velvet hush, the sound tears in uninvited and untethered. Just before it: a quiet we didn't realize existed when we slipped into bed or tiptoed begrudgingly out of it to use the toilet one last time before sleep. After a bark, that dense silence we experienced passing a neighbor's house or slipping past a car sharpens to a point. All that exists, all that can exist, is the bark. The anxious cry from a backseat-bound German Shepherd; the mellow yelp from a bored lab; the oozing howl from a melancholic beagle; the frantic yip from a diapered, potty-school-dropout Chihuahua launches a new era, a new timeline, a new train of thought and action.

The bark is a concept and a snap of sound; it's logic and terror, tremor and joy.

Each bark delivers a distinct message: "I own this house," "fuck off, please," "leave my human alone," "let's go for a walk," "how could you leave me like this" (two minutes on the back deck or two hours in a car feel eerily similar to a dog), and just like that your life begins to shift. The bark is anything that ruffles you or undoes you. It's anything you hate or feel compelled to release, even if it shatters your heart to do so.

Post-bark, you might get a bite, a kiss, or a casual brush against the leg as if nothing happened.

The bark is the phone call you'd rather avoid, the plan you'd prefer not to finalize, the worry about your dad's afib heart condition mingled with the joy that stems from no other reason than "life." It’s also the terror of a world that seems to be unraveling beyond reason and often beyond help.

Even though I wish it were with all my heart, the thrill of being alive isn't enough. To be clear: it is everything, but it isn't enough.

It's about slowing down, but it's also about showing up, and it's exhausting going back and forth and considering which is best for each occasion. It’s knowing the immense suffering in your city or town, let alone the country, the continent, the world at large. And then all of that fury and comfort recedes back into the sound of the bark. It startles me as I slip into bed. I was anxious before, and now the skin of non-anxiety shrivels at the sound of the dog. I’m alert to a life outside of mine.

At 40, I'm realizing I'm not content with a bunch of relationships in my life. I might need to push back on some aspects I dislike to enhance them (requesting to be listened to more, to being less swayed to toddle over my own set boundaries, and asking for more, not less). I’d also like to be more willing to adapt and to be forthcoming with ideas.

Yet, it's also about letting go of what isn't working and seeing it as a beautiful thing, a release—a tossing up of dried flowers that can re-moisturize and resettle themselves on their stems.

Maybe all this adds up to saying: I see through the bullshit, from religious hypocrisy to meticulous house cleaning and ego-driven political arguments and self promotion stunts. In short, I don't like plain non-fat yogurt debates about "what to do about poverty" when the solution is entangled in “othering”... others. Many of us are out here striving to improve ourselves for ourselves and each other. Others avoid the work altogether, and that doesn’t fit.

The bark fades into the dog. The dog forgets the bark. The dog reabsorbs the bark. The dog can't even identify its own bark in an iPhone video. As we walk past the chain-link fence, there's no dog. It's a dark yard with a sense of a bush, a car, and a swing set. The dog never happens; it only ever….happened. Timelines fan out and multiply. We step into each one like walking alone onto a tongue into the mouth of God.

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