For the past three years, I have been keeping all the sticks that my dog, Guess, a 15lb rat terrier, has either carried home from the park or has carried to our car if we’ve driven to a park. (Not all of the sticks to which she given her attention warrant this level of stick-to-itiveness.) I record her stick-carrying antics on my phone then edit and upload the videos to a YouTube channel called Guess with Sticks. Each stick is labelled with the date she collected it, the episode it appears in on her YouTube channel and the date the video was published. Keeping the sticks causes me to reflect on sentimental attachments, accomplishments, collections and trophies. Her compulsion to carry sticks is persistent. Walking in the woods where branches abound, these particular sticks each possessed a quality that compelled my canine friend to extract it and carry it home, pausing multiple times for breaks if the weight was too great. Searching for an explanation for her behaviour, I conclude that the stick is a placeholder for something of which her life is bereft. Perhaps representing the prey she is unable to pursue? Perhaps she carries a stick, despite its tremendous weight, so that she may have some hardship in her largely untroubled life?
Of course, a tiny dog carrying an enormous stick is the stuff of comedy not contemplation so disregard my declarations. Yet, I wonder when I watch her returning to this task day after day, what am I doing myself that comes from a similar impulse, pursued without question or consideration? Maybe this very act, of keeping the sticks, labelling them and putting them on display.