Martin LeFevre: Canine Consciousness
Though the weather was dicey this morning—windy, chilly, and threatening another storm—there was a break in the early afternoon. So, before a new series of storms roll in off the Pacific, I made the most of the lull and drove to Upper Park.
The gate at the entrance to the canyon has been closed since the last rain, and it takes me the better part of an hour, hiking upstream on the trail alongside the raging creek, before I come to the gorge. Along the way I pass three dog people. That turns out to be the theme of the day.
Between a small grove of aspen, I spot two pair of mergansers on a little island in the middle of the swollen, wavelet-filled stream. I drop down off the trail and approach slowly. The notably shy ducks allow me to come up to the edge of the water without fleeing.
They are large ducks, the two males sporting dapper, sharply defined black and white patterns on their backs and sides, while the two brown-bodied females have magnificent fan-feathers on the tops of their heads.
One of the males cavorts in the water in front of the sandy spit, while one of the females, perhaps his partner, cleans and preens. Another male and female sleep, their heads tucked around into their bodies.
I back away carefully, and cross paths with a black dog and its owner on the trail 40 meters away. The dog jumps up on me, and does not see the ducks. But they spot him, and are instantly in the water, floating downstream on the fast current.
After the two-minute meditation with the mergansers, I encounter another man, this one with two large dogs, one of them a big poodle. The other, a black Labrador, breaks away from its master at my approach and runs headlong toward me.
The dog is dripping wet from having just been in the stream, and the owner is not having any success in calling him back. The animal shows every sign of intending to jump up on me. Greeting the dog verbally as he takes his last few bounds toward me, I put my hand out in a motion that both pets and pushes him away.
As the canyon opens up and the volcanic slabs and pillow rocks of the gorge deepen, I pass places on the green slopes that are already bursting forth with new poppies and small violet wildflowers, the first of the year. Most of the orange poppies are still tightly wrapped in cone-shaped buds, waiting for the next warm and sunny day to open.
Later in the afternoon, as I ride the bike back through town, I wait at a stoplight next to a 20-something fellow on a skateboard, who is being pulled by a massive dog. I pull away at a normal speed, and then hear the overgrown boy behind me spurring on the animal like he was a sled dog in the Iditarod.
I’m tempted to speed up, but think, this is too stupid for words. As they speed by, the guy turns and says, “Passed you.” I say nothing, but can’t help but smile. Turning around, the fellow adds, “He likes to pass bikes.” To which I reply, “Are you sure it’s him?”
It’s getting harder and harder to tell who has the higher consciousness—dog owners, or their dogs. Call it canine consciousness. (Synonyms for ‘dog’: afflict, plague, trouble, beleaguer, bother, harass, vex.)
“Don’t you like dogs?” Lest I commit the unpardonable social sin of the first decade of the 21st century in America, yes, I like dogs, and they like me. It’s many of their owners/masters with whom I have a problem.
Sadly, I understand that “man’s best friend” has, too often, become man’s (and woman’s) only friend. But things have gone too far when you open your Internet home page to see, as I did this morning, this lead story (with picture): “Yoga for dogs—doga.” Someone ought to do a sociological study of these four-legged symbols of alienation.
Buddhism notwithstanding, I don’t think dogs can ever advance to human consciousness. But human consciousness can, in a single lifetime, devolve to canine consciousness.
- 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.