All I have to do is say “Old Yellar,” and everyone will know the feeling. Everyone of a certain age, I should add, who’s owned a canine. The love of dog. From where I pass my days I can see out the window into the neighbors’ back yards for four houses over. They all have dogs. Big dogs, mostly. They also have fenced in backyards. One of the things I haven’t seen too much in our neighborhood is dog walking. People let their dogs out to frolic, and do their, ahem, other outdoor activities in the yard. Once a day some member of the family, either with the basic plastic bag or with the specialized, long-handled brush and scooper, slowly surveys the yard to remove any offensive matter so the space may be used for human activities. It’s a level of care that most would shudder to provide for their own species.
Wolves were the earliest domesticated animals. In those hunter-gatherer days either they or humans—the jury’s out on which—realized the advantages of working together. Kind of like we were fated to be partners. Besides, unless the dog turns on us, there’s no question of who’s the master here, and everyone likes to be the boss. When I catch a glimpse of one of the neighborhood pets being scolded, or praised, it’s clear they share emotions with us. The bond is deep. I often wonder about this—they recognize the tone of voice, something that takes humans a while to learn. I grew up with dogs and I found out that even if you insult them in a friendly, encouraging tone of voice they’ll love you for it. Dogs are just that way.
Our first real dog—the one that ended up staying with us his whole life, was a beagle pup we got at a farm. Dogs like to be with others. Unlike humans, they don’t have to pretend. (Although they can do that too, as when they growl at you during a game of tug-o-war.) Then we leave home and go to our places of business, where capitalism reigns. We treat other humans coldly, clinically. “It’s only business,” we’ll parrot, especially if we feel bad about doing what the boss tells us. That’s the way we treat our own species when money’s involved. And we’ll sit at our desks, daydreaming of our dog at home that will be so glad to see us when we walk through that door. And we’ll gladly clean up after our pets what we find obscene even to write in human language. It kind of makes me wonder when I glance out the window while at work.