And I should start shouting his name
And clapping my hands,
But it has been raining all night
And the narrow creek has risen
Is a tawny turbulence is rushing along
Over the mossy stones
Is surging forward
With a sweet loopy music
And therefore I don’t want to entangle it
With my own voice
My little dog to hurry back
Look the sunlight and the shadows are chasing each other
Listen how the wind swirls and leaps and dives up and down
Who am I to summon his hard and happy body
His four white feet that love to wheel and pedal
Through the dark leaves
To come back to walk by my side, obedient.
I am working with a group of philosophers and ethicists concerning the relationships we have with our companion animals. We are asking questions about what humans presuppose are givens, such as “the dog belongs to me and should be obedient to me,” or “the dog is here to offer unconditional love and companionship and is happy to be with me.” Here I confess; though I love animals, none live with us. There are a variety of reasons for this, and let me offer the poetic version that Mary brings out to me in this poem. I love wildness, and the roaming fox or coyote in my yard that I cannot tame and does not answer to me brings me more joy than a dog in the house. I do not discount domestic bliss and the great blessings of sharing a life with a dog, cat, or bird. I do know though how challenging a "thou-thou" relationship is when we relate to animals after generations of domestic breeding, cultural constructs of "pets," and the capture of a wild being to keep us company in our lives. I prefer the wondrous, unexpected, and often fearful visit of sacredness than the safe companionship of that which is under my control. Perhaps we humans are just lazy, and with work we can bring out new terms of awareness that bring the dog's sacredness into a relationship that is not dominated with overtones of their "use" for us. What would it be like if we let the dog choose? Would they choose, as many suppose they did a hundred-thousand years ago, to be tamed so their numbers would multiply upon the earth? Would they answer our call, or the call of the wild? Is there a way they can do both, and a way that we can do both?
Where do you succumb to tameness and obedience?