Meditations: Literally Gone to the Dogs
Literally Gone to the Dogs
Dogs have become to America what cows used to be to India - animals imbued with an importance beyond rational explanation. In our case however, "man's (and woman's) best friend" is not seen as a religious symbol, but a panacea for alienation.
Now don't get me wrong. Some of my best friends are dogs, or rather, they were, until they became dogs and stopped being a friend to anyone! And it seems that such devolution doesn't just apply to males anymore.
Events yesterday confirmed that canine consciousness rules in the USA. In the morning, I passed a young woman walking three huge malamutes. Never mind that for six months out of the year, temperatures of 40 C are common here, and that these animals were bred to transport Eskimos above the Arctic Circle. The young lady didn't even smile when I said 'all you need is a sled and some snow.' Rule number one: dog-worshippers tend to be dogmatic.
That afternoon, returning to the car after a hike in Upper Park, a black SUV with a woman and two large dogs inside sat with the engine running directly behind my car. She was talking to two other women standing beside her vehicle also with two dogs, leashed fortunately, for they were barking up a storm. I tried to establish eye contact to share in the humor of the situation, but clearly I wasn't a member of the club, and dog devotees are serious about their canine camaraderie.
The local news that night featured a story about a woman in Oregon who lost her black Labrador six years ago, and just had it returned. This miracle occurred despite the fact that her husband had died and she had moved twice since her grievous loss (of her dog that is).
Then, late that night, America's national comedian, Jay Leno, featured a guest whose entire time was taken up with a story about his sister's dog (forgive me but I forget its name) who the sister tried to feed vegetarian dog-food because she wanted to be a vegetarian (the sister that is).
What sociological phenomenon is going on here? Sometimes I have the feeling that many dogs now possess higher consciousness than many of their owners. It stands to reason. If the object is not to think, not to feel, then canines, which often approach 'higher thought' without losing their other senses, may be 'evolving,' whereas the consciousness in a large segment of the human population is deteriorating through complacent stagnation. Perhaps we're witnessing a reverse, before-your-eyes kind of reincarnation, in which dogs are becoming more human and humans are becoming more canine.
Then there is the question of the relationship between dominance, hierarchy, and militarism. Dogs are socially very hierarchical animals. Their evolutionary history has hard-wired an instinct for finding their place in the pecking, or rather sniffing order. In a rabidly militaristic country, dogs are the perfect pet.
When humans domesticated dogs, humans became, in a dog's eyes, the 'top dogs.' Much of their legendary loyalty is due to their keen awareness of dominance, which makes the fondness so many women now have for dogs in this country a curious thing.
Unlike cats, a dog defines itself by its relationship to animals above and below him or her. Does America's obsession with 'being number one' have any connection to the dog-worshipping culture? No, of course not, I'm just imagining all this.
Before going to sleep last night, a line from a bad movie I watched briefly echoed through my head, capping the day: "you're like dogs‹a Roman whistles and you roll over and play dead." Only they aren't playing.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.