09 June 2006


An Excerpt From a Work Purportedly Written by a Dog But Probably Ghostwritten by a Human

You can’t know the joy of running after a ball, over and over again. Or the fun of chomping on sticks. You who ride around in cars (which are fun to chase, by the way) and watch football on television and tell each other that it is time to put down the dog because the vet bill is too high, you can’t know the joy. You can’t see how much we live for the bounce. And the long walks. Those are good too. Let them live. Kick them out of the house if you need to, but let them live.


Oh, god!

Let 'em live all right - they love, and know joy, and loyalty, far better than we do -

* * *

Once I fished from the banks, leaf-light and happy;
On the rocks south of quiet, in the close regions of kissing,
I romped, lithe as a child, down the summery streets of my veins,
strict as a seed, nippy and twiggy.
Now the water’s low. The weeds exceed me.
It’s necessary, among the flies and bananas, to keep a constant vigil,
For the attacks of false humility take turns for the worse.
Lacking the candor of dogs, I kiss the departing air;
I’m untrue to my own excesses.

-Theodore Reothke, from “Praise to the End!”


The Promotion

I was a dog in my former life, a very good
dog, and thus, I was promoted to a human being.
I liked being a dog. I worked for a poor farmer,
guarding and herding his sheep. Wolves and coyotes
tried to get past me almost every night, and not
once did I lose a sheep. The farmer rewarded me
with good food, from his table. He may have
been poor, but he ate well. And his children
played with me, when they weren’t in school or
working in the field. I had all the love any dog
could hope for. When I got old, they got a new
dog, and I trained him in the tricks of the trade.
He quickly learned, and the farmer brought me into
the house to live with the family. I brought the farmer
his slippers in the morning, as he was getting
old, too. I was dying slowly, a little bit at a
time. The farmer knew this and would bring the
new dog in to visit me from time to time. The
new dog would entertain me with his flips and
flops and nuzzles. And then one morning I just
didn’t get up. They gave me a fine burial down
by the stream under a shade tree. That was the
end of my being a dog. Sometimes I miss it so
I sit by the window and cry. I live in a high-rise
that looks out on a bunch of other high-rises.
At my job I work in a cubicle and barely speak
to anyone all day. This is my reward for being
a good dog. The human wolves don’t even see me.
They fear me not.

-James Tate
I feared dogs as a child. It is probably the thing I have feared the most in my life. I'm still a little wary of them, and as an adult I have always been a little suspicious of their unquestioning loyalty.

Nevertheless, those are my issues. We should, absolutely, let them live.

I'm more of a cat person.

Liked the quotes, especially the Tate. It could have been a CR post, actually.
They are potentially dangerous animals, it's true, and often raised as if they weren't, which makes them more so, and sets them (and everyone else) up for disaster -or for fear anyway. It's only been in the last ten years I've really come to understand dogs; had 27 cats at one point, growing up, and always understood them. Now I have only one, but he was raised by a dog, and thinks he's a dragon. And he might be right.

Yes, love the Tate poem, and the line about candor in the Roethke.
Enjoyed it very much. Really enjoyed the exchange too. A dragon, eh? How interesting. Love it.
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