Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dogs and us

Having grown up with packs of dogs (literally at one time we had 6 dogs all at once), I have often thought of getting a dog of my own, particularly now that I am living in a house where a big dog would have some room and a yard to play in as needed. Will Self, however, defines why I will never be a dog owner again:
Then came children of my own and the push-me, pull-you of swings and roundabouts. Initially, I found children to be poor dog substitutes. They didn’t come when you called them, and they were very slow – particularly the males – to be house trained.

Of course, this was before the plastic-bag-gloved hand became a mandatory canine accessory. After the legislation, human babies began to look positively continent – what with their neat little absorbent poo-pads – compared with these hairy shitters. Indeed, the whole notion of being responsible for a creature that requires me to pick up its excrement seems a curious inversion of what I always understood about the interspecies relationship.

You see it is the dog that owns you, not the other way around. Self goes on to write that
I thought dogs were domesticated by humans, and that over many millennia we selectively bred them as hunting companions, guards, herders and so forth. We fed them and in return they did our bidding. There was no doubt about which was the subordinate species. The shit thing has completely altered my perspective. It now seems that far from us selectively breeding them, it’s been the other way round. Over many millennia, dogs, by providing human dog lovers with an adaptive advantage (the ability to take dull walks whatever the weather, the gumption to open fiddly tin cans, the capacity to pay exorbitant vets’ bills), have been selectively breeding us.* (will-self.com � Blog Archive � Dog days)

So maybe I will be owned again by a hairy shitter. I kind of pine for the old days on the farm where I could unleash my pack of dogs onto the fields. I think it might be that I started all those plants, or that I've been dreaming of rolling fields of grain.

For now the housemate's cat will have to do, although he mostly just ignores me even when I have to feed him.

*(While it strikes me that George Carlin has a comedy bit very much like this, I still find Self's way of putting it to be very funny.)


  1. I think it was Seinfeld who had a bit about how funny it would be if extra-terrestials were analyzing our actions from space and would think that the dogs ran the planet due to the fact that humans follow them around and pick up their shit and dispose of it for them. But, you touched upon one main reason I consider myself to be more of a cat person. The very fact that Boonis ignores you makes it soooo much easier to leave him and go to work, or maybe stay overnight somewhere - with dogs it's much more difficult to do, they don't seem as self-sufficient.

  2. All true, all true--yet there is something about their otherness and yet their connection with us that is a little miracle, and also a little mystery. I heart my dogs, and even dogs in general.

  3. Anonymous5:27 PM

    I don't think I could NOT have a dog. I need at least 2.

    The Chihuahua is a new experience for me, however. He seems to believe that his size allows him to be connected to me ALL THE TIME. He would gladly sit on my desk at work.

  4. It probably is Seinfeld now that I think about it, swamp. George Carlin has been very much on my mind lately.

    Little miracles and mysteries are the thing the dreams are made on, lisa b.

    That dog certainly owns you, Cordelia!

  5. Dog people of the world unite!

    I love the Self quotations. You should get a dog theorris. Then it can play with Gus.