Wednesday, February 22, 2017
The Dog as Philosopher, 1902 article
THERE is a deal of life to be learned from our surroundings. This idea that God put in His best work on man, has never appealed to me with much force. All Nature, except man, seems to fit into its place. Man seems to be the Divine experiment.
Really, the only consistent and successful Philosopher we ever had about the shop was Nadjy Bruneau. He was a dog, and small, but witty. He always accepted life as an opportunity, and he faced death with a proper regret at leaving us. He had more sense than any other dog I ever knew, and a whole lot more than a good many people I could name without having to look in the directory. If it rained he took the sheltered side of the street instead of hunting around for somebody else's umbrella. If he had a bone too much, which he seldom had, he put his full faith in the integrity of his canine neighbors, and buried it when it would come in play against some day when they had fish for dinner. He was unfaltering in the loyalty of his friendships, and implacable in the vigour of his hatreds. He knew people; and when Nadjy Bruneau made a dive for a pair of feet, on man or woman it has never yet failed that he knew better than we. He was an autocrat in temperament and an aristocrat in habits. His faults were few and fixed. It was as though he felt that an occasional lapse from virtue was, after all, a wholesome moral stimulus. He was cunning, not with the cheap efforts at commonplace deceptions, but with the art and skill of an old offender. And above all, he was frank to a degree—-fairly caught he was as honest as you could ask him to be, and his immediate apologies always followed close upon discovery. He was always ready to own up when he had to, and make good when he must.
The companionship of such a dog as that, year in and year out, is one of the real pleasures of life. He was so much manlier than many men I know. Nature seems to have reserved the vices for humanity.
I have known a good many dogs, and some people, and I have never yet known a dog to:
I have known many men who do some of these things, and some who do all.
That theory of an infinite Cod, which limits the scope of His divine purposes with reference to this world to the prosperity, happiness, and ultimate salvation of the human race, or a specified part of it, is a narrow and selfish view of Cod. If God is God, His wisdom and His mercy and His loving kindness extends to the universe as He has made it — from Solomon to the yellow ant toiling beneath the fallen lote tree. It is only we who make our own books, who estimate the human race so high. It may be, that from the dignity of his hard-accumulated years the elephant looks down upon us pigmies with the earnest contempt that our manifold deficiencies earn for us. It may be that from his vantage in the skies the eagle turns his eye from the feast of glory in the blazing sun to us — who dare not look God's furnace in the face, with nothing but the kindest commiseration for the puny race that meets him only from safe ambush, and then only with weapons that he cannot match. It may be that in God's wide universe there are points of view other than the human point, from which many things look different than they do to us.
This dog was our daily companion for many years. Unselfishly he ministered to our pleasures. He never quarreled with us — he never failed us — what was his duty he always did. He was so much better than so many people we know that it seems a pity humans cannot learn from their dumb companions the value of virtue versus vice.