Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The dog has run off again

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

Calling summoning

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?

1 comment:

  1. From Tee Lee: This has always been a tough topic for me, because of loving both wild and domestic. I have had acquaintances who refused to own pets for moral reasons. But it is hard for me to even see a comparison between the wild animal and the "tame". The issue of whether we should have pets is moot, now that we are overrun with them- we are where we are.
    What if we let the dog choose? I can only observe that decades ago, when we let our little dog run at night, we discovered he was packing up with other neighbor dogs and hunting. They returned to their respective homes at dawn. So, in deference to neighbors with livestock, we started keeping him indoors. I needn't even start on the ferral cat colonies. So we live, in our odd human way, with what we have created.