My children wearily put up with my joke that our dog is my favorite “child,” because she’s the only one in the house who always listens to me and lives to please me. My kids do know, though, that I’m joking, not about my dogs lovely attributes, but about actually thinking she is a “child.” I know a dog is a dog, not a human, and I’m incredibly grateful for that difference. In a column discussing just how dreadful Michael Vicks is, Jonah Goldberg pays a lovely homage to dogs:
They are, evolutionarily and otherwise, man’s partners, our wingmen — winghounds if you prefer. Dogs are the only animal to choose to be our friends and comrades in the great struggle of muddling through our turn on this mortal coil. (Cats, I’m sorry to say, hold one paw in each camp so as to forever keep their options open, and all other domesticated animals had to be forced into the arrangement.).
What we see most clearly in dogs are precisely the things we as human beings wish to see in ourselves: loyalty, joy, love, home, family, commitment, humor, and an utter disregard for the pieties and pretenses of fashionable life. (“If you take a dog which is starving and feed him and make him prosperous,” Mark Twain observed, “that dog will not bite you. This is the primary difference between a dog and a man.”) My dog cares not that he is beautiful, that he is rich, that he is prized. All he cares about is that he is loved and that he has someone to love back. And if that someone happens to have a piece of ham behind his back, well, he’s no fool either.
Indeed, as many have noted, dogs look to us as we look to God. Even Ambrose Bierce, a great cynic, defined “reverence” as “the spiritual attitude of a man to a god and a dog to a man.”
Absolutely. I think it’s a shame that Muslims worldwide have been inculcated into the desert dweller’s belief that dogs are unclean. It definitely shuts them out from one of the joys of life, which is a loving animal. I also suspect that their failure to engage with the one animal that wants to engage with us may explain how comfortable they are with animal cruelty. That cruelty ranges from the horrible Hamas TV show that has laughing children watching tortured animals to the Palestinian military “training” I read about in the early 1980s, which involved ripping the heads off of live chickens. For many Western children, compassion starts with being taught not to torture the family dog, an animal that then rewards the child with constant and loving companionship.