I remember, when I was younger, watching the movie Homeward Bound, and wondering how good a dog’s sense of direction was in real life.
At least in the case of Gemelli, I can now say: problematically good.
Gem not only remembers where things are, he also has strong ideas about when we should visit them. When he comes with me to work, for example, he always drags me to the pet store, many blocks away, even if it’s been months since his last visit. He knows where all the pet stores are in our home neighborhood, too, as well as all the TD Banks (where he can find water and free biscuits), and not a walk goes by that he doesn’t try to take us to a least a couple of those stops.
A few months ago, my younger brother got a cockapoo, a little girl named Brooklyn. Gem loves Brooklyn. Not in a ‘where the ladies at?’ kind of way (his other focus on walks), but in a platonic, member of the same pack, besties-for-life way. The two of them will wrestle and play for hours on end. Fortunately, and unfortunately, Brooklyn lives just ten blocks from our house. So on any afternoon or evening walk, Gem now also tries to drag us down to see her. And, a few times a week, we let him.
Last night, Jess and I had dinner at a restaurant near Columbus Circle. We brought Gem along, and ate at an outdoor table. Post-dinner, we walked into Central park.
So far as I know, I don’t think Gem had ever been to Columbus Circle before, nor to that corner of the park. But, even in the relative darkness, he looked around, and then started pulling us northward. A few blocks up, he veered out of the park, and onto Central Park West.
“He’s trying to take us to Brooklyn’s house,” I told Jess.
“I don’t think so,” she replied. “That’s still twenty blocks away, and he has no idea where he is; he thinks this is near our house.”
But, in fact, Gem knew precisely where he was. And he was on a mission. Up CPW, then across some street in the mid–70’s, and up Columbus. When we were two or three blocks away, Jess conceded. A few minutes later, triumphantly, Gem dragged us in my brother’s building’s front door.
Sure, those excellent navigation skills are at times a pain in the ass. But they’re also kind of a comfort. As Jess has a terrible sense of direction, it’s nice to think that, so long as she’s walking Gem, the two together are likely to find their way home.