Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Canis Lupus Fidelis
This post is inspired by a recent photo taken by She as part of her Mute Monday theme, All About Me. In that post, she includes a marvelous photo of her dog, Trout, that elicited in Moi a host of responses – not only an appreciation for the evocative power of art and its own particular "language," but also an appreciation for all that canines have come to mean to us humans.
If I haven't already made it clear here, I'm a dog nut. I spend part of my life working with them, studying their behavior, and talking to other dog nuts about that behavior. As a result of this experience, I have come to form certain conclusions that have led me to shy away from anthropomorphizing our canine friends except when it serves as a kind of short hand to get a point across. As in, yeah, lady, your pit bull is eating your sofa because he's basically at the level of an 18 year old frat boy. Give him something to DO. But, by and large, I agree with the great dog trainer/behaviorist Jean Donaldson (read her, not Cesar Milan) who believes that today's Disney-ification of canines does them no damn good.
But that doesn't mean I don't recognize that something special does exist between humans and canines, something that transcends the working relationships we have with other domesticated animals. A kind of fidelity that is difficult to explain, but which has existed between man and dog throughout history. For instance, the ancient Greeks write of the value of domesticated dogs as aides in physical and mental therapy. And the Chippewa Indians are one of several native tribes who include them in their Creation Myth - when given a chance to remain in paradise or stay on earth with man, the dog chose to stay with us. As Max Depree says: "We are alone, absolutely alone, on this chance planet; and amid all the forms of life that surround us, not one, excepting the dog, has made an alliance with us."
I'd like to hear about your relationship with your dog(s). Not about how much you love them or how cute they are but a brief illustration of your own experience of this alliance.