What Is Dog?


Dear Axel:

You had me the minute I saw your little black nose in the litter-pile: Olive eyes; brown patch on your flank; one ear just a bit bigger than the other.  I love your lop-sided gaze, as though you look at the world from a different angle and the world is better for it.  I pulled this page from a book of empty papers, determined to put words to the gift you are.  You see, you can’t get to your feet without a little help now and, I know soon, I must help you move on to a greater adventure.

Photo by Robin Layton

Dearest friend, you have allowed me to be your voice to the world and I thank you.  Some believe it ridiculous to place words and feelings in the ‘ruff” package called dog.  These men are deaf and blind, dogless even in a dog’s company. Those who speak for canines are your gods, though many, a bit misguided.

We may think dog is regretting that he chewed up the Ferragamo.  No, dog is depressed that the left shoe still sits in its perfection just right of center in the closet. He laments that he’s been unsuccessful in getting the door open again. Dog is pouting not penitent.

Yet, my paraphrasing for you is a reflection of your feelings for us. People are their dog’s closest friends.  We know that to understand you fully, we must make you human. And, in dog’s humanity, you understand man better. You understand all that we are, and are not. You appreciate us for our willingness to try to understand you; to love you for all that you are, or are not.

Anthropomorphism is not a sickness; it’s not superficial or silly.  It is vital to the steel bond between man and beast. It creates a common link, a loving relationship propelling this unity beyond master and mutt into the world of symbiosis, where the good of one depends on the good of the other. You give me love and I do my best to understand you, no matter the challenge.

Axel 1998-2013

In the end, on that final ride to the vet, windows down, aged nose resting on the sill, tattered ears flapping in the wind, you understand me. Even though my voice is mute behind a flood of tears.  I have given you words, the language of love.  And you have given me love, the language of the universe.

You are dog.

You are love.

And I am yours. axel