Here’s an excellent and amusing commentary I ran across in the Sunday Herald. I don’t think he’s a Dogster but he sure sounds like one!
Why dogs are ill-disposed to humanity
By Ian Bell
THE DOG is looking at me strangely. Strangely is his normal look, these days. He applies the expression – think of Winston Churchill running short of blood, sweat and tears – to failures in the snack supply chain, to sofa-related territorial disputes, and to the rubbish people talk about dogs.
“For example,” he says. “There was that sentence you were just about to write. Don’t deny it. With your customary gall you were about to say, We’ve just been for a run on the beach’. Who is this we’?
“Correct me if I blinked and missed you streaking by on your aerobic work-out, but weren’t you the hunched, wheezing figure sheltering with the Silk Cut and I – a picture of nobility, if I do say so – the one gambolling in the bracing North Sea breezes? The last run you witnessed, pal, involved Northern Rock.”
advertisementThis is true. Dogs, irritatingly, have no concept of false. He has just been for a run; I have been for a weep in the winds hurtling shorewards with a big Hello! from Oslo. He deals with existing reality – Krispies, Brie, Christmas leftovers, my left foot – I talk about people and their pets.
“Pets?” he interjects. “A fascinating delusion. Discuss.”
I am the one, with opposable thumbs and a newspaper column, liable to ask about the moral standing of animals. He’s the one liable to question the moral standing (“if any”) of people.
“Seriously,” he says, alternately licking his crotch and my hand to illustrate the parable, “your species needs to think a bit harder about this sort of thing.
“Granted, you generally fail to see that waking in the cold dawn light with a dog on your head is the perfect expression of the interconnectedness of all things. You can’t be blamed for that.
“Granted, equally, that evolution has not endowed you with fine discrimination, a proper appreciation of Krispies, or even a decent sense of smell. But look at this article I’ve just been reading.”
“Ah, the old trusty human monosyllable. Common to all known language groups, adequate for most conversations, sufficient to get some of you into the White House, and more than enough for any idea you might happen to be having. To quote your good self, what about this article, eh?”
“It says here that some of you – none of my relations, you’ll notice – acquire pets’, forget to form a relationship with these godlike beings, and then try to dump them. It says here, in fact, that in the piece of cat litter you call Scotland, 800 attempts were made last winter alone to disown “unwanted” animals.
“The report adds that the people who staff the shelters are often abused by other people, petulant people who confuse shelters with waste-disposal units and can’t understand why living creatures should not be chucked like malfunctioning Yuletide gadgets.
“So, care to define animal’, or explore the notion of who might ever want or unwant’ whom, given the evidence?”
Not for the first time, I admit that he has a point. It’s unfortunate, I say, even despicable, but nothing new. Some people, I say, are callous and a bit stupid.
“You think?” he says. “Clever of you to notice. I bet you also tell yourself that the fact is no big deal. Not from where I’m chewing the furniture – and I say it’s art – my lumbering friend. You’re not big on animal rights, are you Fido?”
Rights are a human construct, I explain. It is illogical to extend a species-specific mental activity, far less the product of that activity, to another species, and to one incapable, moreover, of having a clue what you’re on about. Besides, I observe, the enormous piece of cow bone he’s batting around used to belong to someone, or thing.
“Nice try,” he says. “It would have been nicer, or a touch more elegant, if you had explained how well and how often people extend human rights to people, never mind the rest of us. It would have helped, too, if you had remembered that a victim does not need to be informed of his rights in order to be a victim. Ignorance of the law cuts both ways, chump.”
This is true, I say. Cruelty is disgusting. People who believe disposable society extends to the living, even if they happen to be a nuisance, boring, or merely out of style, are disgusting. But some of those people, I remark, just don’t think.
“So,” he says lightly, “lethal injection, then? Or do you favour gassing? Or just waiting until they are so old and decrepit that nobody will notice or care where you dump them? We could beat them first, if you fancy. You mentioned logic, right?”
People are different, I insist.
You’re no benign vegan, I observe.
“Never killed a thing in my life,” he says. “Stunned a pigeon once. Nobody was more surprised than me – apart from him. Besides, as I have often observed, I don’t get to do the food shopping. Nor does a self-respecting dog dispute the fact of death. How many years of fun, romps, lovely people and talking about barbaric cruelty do you think I’m allowed, exactly?”
But people really are different. “They’re not cats, I’ll grant you. Low, but not that low. Yet even cats, cruel sods, do not commit crass category errors.”
There is only so much any one person can do or say about anything, I tell him. There are big tragedies and lesser tragedies in the world, small injustices and vast cruelties.
“So how is it working out with the vast stuff? Or answer me this: is talking endlessly about the unimaginable horrors you never quite fix just a handy reason for ignoring all the little genocides none of you can admit might be relevant? “
I ask him if a pig’s ear would make him shut up. He says that sarcasm doesn’t become me, but if there happens to be a giant pork scratching available, that might be another matter. He asks me if I’m ready for my walk yet. I ask him if feels that a solitary stroll around the garden for an hour or five might not improve his mood.