October 08, 2004

Dog Story: a Respite from Politics

DOGS ARE BY FAR my favorite animals, and every dog I have ever known well has been a genuine and memorable character. Dogs are as individualistic as humans, infinitely more honest than humans, faithful beyond human conception and so loving that at least one tribe of American aboriginals regarded dogs as living proof of a benevolent Creator. In fact the love of dogs is so unconditional (and sometimes so unconditionally heroic, as when a dog rescues a child from drowning or drags an unconscious man from a burning building), I have often wondered why more priests and ministers do not use that boundless and utterly forgiving love as the perfect analogy for the Divine love described in the New Testament, especially St. John. Indeed dogs are love, and their mere presence heals human divorcement from nature and protects humankind from a vast number of ailments physical, mental and spiritual.

After all that I hardly need testify that yes I truly love dogs, probably as deeply and unabashedly as any imperfect human can love anything. A big dog protected me throughout the darkest and most terrifying hours of my childhood and was in fact the only being in my entire universe I could trust. Ever since then, if I am troubled or sad or gloomy, the mere sight of a dog will put a smile on my face. I am endlessly grateful for the fact I was privileged to enjoy the company of dogs – mostly large dogs, and sometimes a blessed bounty of as many as four or six big dogs at a time – for most of my 64 years. Two of these dogs – LeeRoy and Sadie – were my constant companions (and, in truth, my only sources of purpose and inspiration) during the bleakest and most hopeless era of my life: the long battle with post-traumatic depression that followed the loss of two unpublished books and all the rest of my writing and photography in a 1983 fire. LeeRoy (half Rottweiler/half Golden retriever) and Sadie (half Labrador/half Newfoundland) came to me as puppies, and they did not leave until they died of old age.

But I fear I will never again know that sort of infinitely reliable companionship. The same human maliciousness that forced me back into a city also forced me into “senior citizen” housing, where dogs are effectively prohibited by a rule that allows no pets greater than 20 pounds – for all intent and purposes, cats only. And unless some economic miracle occurs – something so profoundly unlikely it is absurd to consider – “senior citizen” housing (with all its attendant regulations) is where I will live out the remainder of my life. The very few dogs that comply with the 20-pound limit are either hopelessly neurotic or prohibitively expensive – a good Jack Russell terrier, for example, costs approximately $500 – and I throughly despise cats: I was savagely clawed by a cat that attacked me without provocation when I was three, and ever since I was old enough to conceptualize it, I have regarded cats as sneaky, treacherous vermin notable mostly for their repugnant habits of wantonly tracking cat-box filth on food-preparation surfaces and defiantly spraying their surroundings with stinking urine that is only slightly less vile than the rank micturition of skunks. In other words, the restrictions of "senior citizen" housing mean I will probably never have animal companions again.

The two dogs who were with me when I was vindictively evicted from the place in the country where I had made a home since 1993 are named Brady and Jasmine. Brady is a big (65 pounds) half Springer/half Brittany who is the best hunting dog I have ever known, and Jasmine is a huge (115 pounds) half-Rottweiler/half-German Shepherd who is exactly the kind of intelligent fearless constant companion that made her a perfect dog for a rural area infested with cougars. Of course I was forced to give up both dogs. The dogs themselves were sorely wounded by the separations from me and each other, which hurt me terribly at the time and hurts not a bit less now. But they each have good and loving homes, and there is at least that small comfort to ease the daily (and probably everlasting) emotional pangs of awakening in a dogless silence so oppressively devoid of canine life that, paradoxically, its emptiness bears down with tangible weight, as if to press me back into the protective numbness of sleep – or perhaps into something more permanent.

Thus forcibly parted from my own dogs, I watch other dogs all the more closely, especially during my daily walks in the park, and once in a while – or so I like to imagine – one of these dogs senses my instinctively fond attention, glances up at me and gives me a wag of the tail in response. I also search the Internet for stories about dogs, especially stories that show how dogs are so very much brighter and more sensitive than far too many of us realize they are. Dog stories have always interested me and I wrote several of them when I was a newspaperman, but now they are a vital connection to a blessed reality from which I am probably exiled forever. One of the best and most delightful such stories I have ever read is linked here. I hope you learn from it. Most of all I hope you enjoy it as I did.

Posted by Loren at October 8, 2004 05:13 AM


Go to the pound! There are plenty of great dogs there! You can even find Jack Russell terriers or derivatives thereof. Don't go another day without a beloved dog.

Posted by: Burke Churchill at October 9, 2004 07:17 AM

"half Rottweiler/half Golden retriever"

That's hard to picture.

Posted by: Tuning Spork at October 12, 2004 09:58 PM

Find a local rescue centre,and volenteer to walk and play with the dogs, even help out with feeding ect..You will find that you will be most welcomed for the extra help you can provide.
And scores of lovely dogs will be most greatfull for your attention... "SENIOR CITIZEN"="WISE ELDER"

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