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The Literate Kerry (Vol. 4)

06/23/2004 6:30 PM | Anonymous

(This excerpt is taken from a personal essay entitled, “Crimes Against Dog,” written by Alice Walker about her dog Marley. Among her many literary awards, Ms. Walker received the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 for The Color Purple.)

” What is it about dogs? I think what I most appreciate in Marley is how swiftly she forgives me. Anything. Was I cool and snooty when I got up this morning? Did I neglect to greet her when I came in from a disturbing movie? Was I a little short on the foodstuffs and did I forget to give her a cube of dried liver? Well. And what about that walk we didn’t do and the swim we didn’t take and why don’t I play ball with her the way I did all last week? And who is this strange person you want me to go off with? It doesn’t matter what it is, what crime against Dog I have committed. She always forgives me. She doesn’t even appear to think about it. One minute she’s noting my odd behavior, the next, if I make a move toward her, she’s licking my hand. As if to say, Gosh, I’m so glad you’re yourself again, and you are back!

Dogs understand something I was late learning: When we are mean to anyone or any being it is because we are temporarily not ourselves. We’re somebody else inhabiting these bodies we think of as us. They recognize this. Ooops, I imagine Marley saying to herself, sniffing my anger, disappointment, or distraction. My mommy’s not on there at the moment. I’ll just wait until she gets back. I’ve begun to feel this way more than a little myself. Which is to say, Marley is teaching me to be more self-forgiving. Sometimes I will say something that hurts a friend’s feelings. I will be miserable and almost want to do away with myself. Then I’ll think, But that wasn’t really the you that protects and loves this friend so much you would never hurt them. That was the you that slipped in because you are sad and depressed about other things: the state of your love life, your health, or the fate of the planet. The you that loves your friend is back now. Welcome her home. Be gentle with her. Tell her you understand. Lick her hand.”


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