Cave Canem

“There was one species on Terra that lived in very close symbiosis with the domesticated primates. This was a variety of domesticated canines called dogs. The dogs had learned to achieve a rough simulation of guilt and remorse and worry and other domesticated primate characteristics. The domesticated primates had learned how to achieve simulations of loyalty and dignity and cheerfulness and other canine characteristics. The primates claimed that they loved the dogs as much as the dogs loved them. Still, the primates kept the best food for themselves. The dogs noticed this, you can be sure, but they loved the primates so much that they forgave them.” -Robert Anton Wilson

My family’s getting a new adorable puppy to pamper as I stay in a country where the best cared for dogs are being groomed for fighting with other dogs. I’ve always been interested in dogs, I suppose I’m a dog person, but I really mean in a theoretical way. They had the combination of intelligence and pack mentality that made them sufficiently docile and extremely useful. The only animal with a comparable relationship with mankind is the horse, which is losing significance. Dogs won’t get replaced till we have serious androids.

“Dogs are not like cats, who amusingly tolerate humans only until someone comes up with a tin opener that can be operated with a paw. Men made dogs, they took wolves and gave them human things: unnecessary intelligence, names, a desire to belong, and a twitching inferiority complex.” – Terry Pratchett

We’ve done weird stuff with dogs. Every now and then I remember that bull dogs can only give birth by cesarean section. Dog fighting is extremely popular throughout the world and here. We’ve also bred dogs smart enough to learn english at the rate of a human child. We’ve trained dogs for a variety of purposes, finding drugs, finding corpses, helping people with disabilities with everyday chores. Some people call them man’s best friend and some people farm them for meat.

At one point I noticed that many books I read, mostly unusual science fiction, including dog stories. They were short fables that played on our relationship with dogs. I began collecting them as a hobby, and it came to include any dog moments in books, such as the two passages above. This is one of my favorite…

“Let me tell you the most beautiful story I know. A man was given a dog, which he loved very much. The dog went with him everywhere, but the man could not teach it to do anything useful. The dog would not fetch or point,it would not race or protect or stand watch. Instead the dog sat near him and regarded him, always with the same inscrutable expression.  ‘That’s not a dog, it’s a wolf,’ said the man’s wife. ‘He alone is faithful to me,’ said the man, and his wife never discussed it with him again. One day the man took his dog with him into his private airplane and as they flew over high winter mountains, the engines failed and the airplane was torn to shreds among the trees. The man lay bleeding, his belly torn open by blades of sheared metal, steam rising from his organs in the cold air, but all he could think of was his faithful dog. Was he alive? Was he hurt? Imagine his relief when the dog came padding up and regarded him with that same steady gaze. After an hour the dog nosed the man’s gaping abdomen, then began pulling out intestines and spleen and liver and gnawing on them, all the while studying the man’s face. ‘Thank God,’ said the man. ‘At least one of us will not starve.’ -Orson Scott Card

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