Friday, June 13, 2014

The Nature of Dog-ness

On a border collie forum I frequent, someone asked how people see and perceive their dogs. The answers engendered made me think and I decided I'll share my answer. Which is:

My dogs are my partners. We stand together on a very old, well-trodden path laid down by shepherds decades and centuries ago. Personally, I can only make poor mimicry of what those shepherds did - and still do - for I am not a farmer and I have no flock of my own. Perhaps there's a shepherd or farmer somewhere in my family tree who walked the fells with a pair of shaggy sheepdogs at his heels and "whistled through his fist" to bring the sheep down or put them out. But I don't know, and I can't say. My dogs, however ... their heritage is gloriously undiminished.
My dogs carry, undiluted, the blood of canine kings. To some, that ancient, hardscrabble shepherding life may have seemed like one of servitude, but I know, and my dogs tell me, that it's in their blood as sure as song and the sea. So, I see my dogs as furry, dusty, dirty, muddy, hairy, four-legged miracles that have been gifted to me to caretake and enjoy. I am their servant as much as they are mine, for I can't demand their instinct, their talent, their heart. They share that with me without reservation, and it's upon me to be a good custodian of those gifts.

I see my dogs as partners and companions, but in no way human. They are better than human. They still possess what we lost in the Garden long ages ago. Whatever pettiness they may own, it's innocent and like as not our fault. Whatever meanness they may own, it's without guile and again, possibly our fault. I'm glad my dogs aren't human. I'm glad they encourage me to look outside myself, to stop short when things go wrong and ask myself the question, "What can I do better?"

I see my dogs as friends who give me their whole hearts, who devote themselves to loving me as no other thing on earth can or does. But this does not preclude their dog-ness nor does it diminish them to "little furry people." They are Dogs: honorably, faithfully, cleverly, wisely, beautifully, joyfully, wholly Dogs. They are my gifts. They are the axis around which my funny little world revolves. In all things and all deeds, I always come back to their Dogness.

I'm farm-sitting for a friend this weekend. We just got done feeding sheep, horses and chickens and in a little while, I'll bring the ewes and lambs in off the pasture for the night. My dogs are presently napping, content in their dogness, and they'll spring to their feet the moment I stand, alert and ready and cocked to fire. This Dogness of theirs - I wouldn't dream of insulting it with silly anthropomorphizing. They are ever so much more than that.

And that is how I see my dogs.