The Literate Kerry (Vol.14)

(The following excerpt was taken from Dog People, edited by Michael Rosen. This particular passage was also written by M. Rosen.)

Dog People

Dog people are folks who want their lives to be a little doggier – more physical contact, consistency, innocence wildness, routine, unselfconsciousness, and even humility. Observing a dog is an exercise in appreciating the gifts of the nonhuman. Dog people try to put more “nature” in the concept of human nature. Dog people feel that seeing their dog basking on a sunny pane of carpet is a good reason to snuggle up for a snooze; they take the thumping tail as reassurance that yielding to the moment was the right decision. They like to be greeted each time they’ve been away, a reminder that life is too unbearably short to feign indifference to any joy, however familiar and constant. Dog people appreciate a dog’s expectations:Now is when we walk. Now is when I hop on the bed and you massage my ears. Now comes the part when you say you’ll be back, but I know you won’t be home before dinner. Dog people’s souls are anchored by gravity of another creature’s similar needs.

(Nanette Loya sent this to us, and we were given permission to post it. Thanks Nanette. The author of the piece is unknown.)

What is a Breeder?

A Breeder (with a capital B) is one who thirsts for knowledge and never really knows it all, one who wrestles with decisions of conscience, convenience, and commitment.

A Breeder is one who sacrifices personal interests, finances, time, friendships, fancy furniture, and deep pile carpeting! She/He gives up the dreams of a long, luxurious cruise in favor of turning that all important show into this years “vacation.”

The Breeder goes without sleep, (but never without coffee!), in hours spent planning a breeding or watching anxiously over the birth process, and afterwards, over every little sneeze, wiggle or cry.

The Breeder skips dinner parties because that litter is due, or the babies have to be fed at eight. She/He disregards birth fluids and puts mouth to mouth to save a gasping newborn, literally blowing life into a tiny, helpless creature that may be the culmination of a lifetime of dreams.

A Breeder’s lap is a marvelous place where generations of proud and noble champions once snoozed.

A Breeder’s hands are strong and firm and often soiled, but ever so gentle and sensitive to the thrusts of a puppy’s wet nose.

A Breeder’s back and knees are usually arthritic from stooping, bending, and sitting in the birthing box, but are strong enough to enable the breeder to show the next choice pup to a championship.

A Breeder’s shoulders are stooped and often heaped with abuse from competitors, but they’re wide enough to support the weight of a thousand defeats and frustrations.

A Breeder’s arms are always able to wield a mop, support an armful of puppies, or lend a helping hand to a newcomer.

A Breeder’s ears are wondrous things, sometimes red (from being talked about) or strangely shaped (from being pressed against a phone receiver), often deaf to criticism, yet always fine-tuned to the whimper of a sick puppy.

A Breeder’s eyes are blurred from pedigree research and sometimes blind to her own dog’s faults, but they are ever so keen to the competitions faults and are always searching for the perfect specimen.

A Breeder’s brain is foggy on faces, but it can recall pedigrees faster than an IBM computer. It’s so full of knowledge that sometimes it blows a fuse: it catalogues thousands of good structures, fine ears, and perfect heads… and buries in the soul the failures and the ones that didn’t turn out. The Breeder’s heart is often broken, but it beats strongly with hope everlasting… and it’s always in the right place !

Oh, yes, there are breeders, and then, there are
BREEDERS!!

(The following passage was written by Patricia B. Mc Connell, Ph.D. in a personal essay entitled, “Love is Never Having to Say Anything at All.” In this essay, she writes about her dog Luke and the lack of a shared language between dogs and humans.)

“Love is Never Having to Say Anything at All”
Excerpt

Our lack of a shared language is a profound disadvantage sometimes, causing us no end of grief when we’re desperate to ask our dogs what’s wrong with them, or yearning to explain why we are torturing them with yet another radiation treatment. Our ability to talk to one another may be one of the greatest accomplishments of the human species, and there are times when I’d give anything to be able to communicate with Luke in greater depth than I can now. But speech comes with a price. Being in conversation with even a good friend raises your blood pressure. It takes a lot of mental energy to make decisions about what words to say, how to string them together, what tone to use when you say them. That’s the very same energy that spiritual leaders advise us to turn off as a way of revitalizing ourselves. The constant conversation that most of us have in our heads as we’re driving, eating, and walking through the park can be exhausting (“Did I turn off the water in the herb garden? What should I do about Spots’ arthritis? It’s getting worse. Shoot, I forgot to get the oil checked when I got gas last night.”) and is so inherent to the way our brains work that we actually have to practice turning it off. Anyone who’s tried meditation knows how difficult it can be to shut off the internal chatter that comes with being verbal.

Experts at meditation can be “in the present,” and free of mental noise for hours, but I’m thrilled to turn off my brain for a minute or two. That’s because I’m a novice at a skill we humans need to learn and practice. But I doubt that Luke has to practice meditating to be able to experience the kind of spiritual peace humans have to learn to find. Being nonverbal allows an otherwise intelligent, highly connected animal to live in the present without the hailstorm of internal converstaions that complicate our human lives. If you think about it, most of what we “talk” about in our own heads isn’t about the present, it’s about the past or future. But dogs keep us firmly rooted in the here and now, and that, it turns out, is a notable accomplishment.

Where but with dogs (and selected other animals) can we have such a deep and meaningful relationship with so little baggage? Words may be wonderful things, but they carry weight with them, and there’s a great lightness of being when they are discarded. The story of the Garden of Eden is a lovely allegory for the cost if cognition. Being able to use our brains the way that we do separates us from the rest of the animal world, and like most everything else in life, has its costs as well as its benefits.

And so, perhaps it’s not just the things we share with dogs that wrap us together in mutual love. In the lovely balanced irony of yin and yang, it’s the differences as much as the similarities that bring us together.

I do know that some of my happiest times are when Luke and I sit silently together, overlooking the green, rolling hills of southern Wisconsin. Our lack of language doesn’t get in the way, but creates an opening for something else, something deep and pure and good. We dog lovers share a kind of Zen-like communion with our dogs, uncluttered by nouns and adverbs and dangling participles. The connection speaks to a part of us that needs to be nurtured and listened to, but is so often drowned out in the cacophony of speech. Dogs remind us that we are being heard, without the additional weight of words. What a gift. No wonder we love them so much.

Compiled by
Carol Kearney

Last Updated: 03/16/2005, 12:00 pm