Investigations of a 21st-Century Dog
By BORIS GLIKMAN
Many books have been written which examine the behaviour of our pets. These books analyse, in various degrees of detail and depth, the drives, desires and aversions of our companion animals and explain how these inner goings-on are expressed through their outer actions and conduct.
I recently asked myself, ‘What if our pets were to write a book analysing our behaviour from their point of view? How would they interpret and explain our actions, our drives, our fears, our desires? What kinds of insights into our own lives, our own behaviour could we gain from their perspective?’
I have begun to create just such a book. Below are some extracts from it:
“We 21st century dogs are different from the dogs of the 20th century; we are wiser, more advanced, more knowledgeable, more cynical, more jaded—we’ve been around the neighbourhood block a few times. Nowadays, it’s hard to teach young dogs new tricks, let alone teaching old dogs new tricks, for we modern dogs are more reluctant to blindly obey our Masters’ orders.”
“We must admit that our efforts to understand our Masters are inherently stymied and constantly undermined by our Masters’ near-inability to communicate in any intelligible language. They are incapable of expressing their thoughts and feelings in a coherent, lucid sort of manner, and our discourse with them is limited to only a few basic vocalisations that we have been able to discover the meaning of. Because these vocalisations are all concerned with elementary physical actions, such as sitting, we cannot convey to our Masters the true range and depth of our thoughts and feelings, and are unable to engage them in a higher dialogue. Consequently, there will forever exist an unbridgeable gulf between us and them.
Nevertheless, we persevere tirelessly at attempting to impart to our Masters that we 21st century dogs are not the simple, unsophisticated, naive creatures they apparently believe us to be. As we cannot communicate with them through language, we instead perform actions which hold deep symbolic significance, hoping our Masters will thereby recognise how enlightened and profound we really are.
For example, before lying down to sleep, we turn around several times in order to pay our respects to those who bring us our dreams—it is our way of praying for peaceful and pleasant dreams, dreams that will not disturb us or make us twitch in our slumbers.
Another example is when we are rolling around in the grass, with our legs pointing up to the sky and our backs upon the ground. In such a way we are giving thanks to the Father Sun for providing us with light and warmth, and we are also giving thanks to the Mother Earth for providing us with solid land upon which to walk, run, play and perform our purgative tasks.
Alas, it seems that our Masters cannot even comprehend our symbolic actions and instead apparently misconstrue them as arising out of our primal instincts.”
“Our Masters even lack the basic understanding of how to communicate correctly through facial expressions. For example, through hard lessons we have determined that when our Masters bare their fangs at us, it is not an aggressive gesture that warns of their intent to attack and bite, but is rather, absurdly and paradoxically enough, a benevolent expression of friendliness, pleasure and happiness.”
“In such laborious, tortuous ways we, bit by bit, compile rudimentary knowledge of our Masters’ behaviour. Yet, we must persist in trying to comprehend our Masters as best as we can, for even a partial, imperfect understanding of their actions, motives, fears, desires, would be invaluable to us.”
“Our Masters are always rushing about, preoccupied by some mysterious concerns. They disappear for long stretches of time and just as we are about to give up all hope of ever seeing them again, they rematerialise and we are overcome with joy and relief at the sight of them. The reasons behind our Masters’ frequent departures need to be investigated further.”
“Our Masters possess extraordinary (bordering on magical) powers. They are able to produce our nourishment from a place where before there was not even the faintest whiff of food. They can create, with no perceptible effort and using merely their bare hands, an empty space where there once stood an invisible—yet cruelly mocking our senses—impenetrable barrier. This compassionate act of wizardry of our Masters allows us precious access to our beloved outside playground/lavatory, where there is fresh air, green grass, wide open spaces, and where we are able to unburden ourselves of the foul substances within our bodies; otherwise we would remain imprisoned inside forever.”
“Our ancestors believed that the Masters are all-powerful, all-knowing and pure goodness; that nothing the Masters do is ever wrong, evil or senseless, even if at times the Masters’ actions appear to be absurd or malicious. The dogs of the past explained away the seemingly vicious, meaningless acts their Masters sometimes committed against them by arguing that we, mere dogs, lacked the perspicacity needed to fully comprehend the Masters’ motives and actions. If only we had the ability to see the complete picture from the Masters’ perspective, those dogs claimed, then the Masters’ deeds, no matter how violent or arbitrary they may seem, would always turn out to make sense and to be to the dogs’ benefit.
These days, we occasionally question whether or not our Masters are as powerful, as knowledgeable, as virtuous as we make them out to be. Perhaps the belief that our Masters possess superpowers and moral perfection arose because the dogs of the past surmised that if they were to accept this concept unquestioningly, the Masters would treat them better and feed them more. It is entirely possible that this idea was then passed down over the ages, without ever being challenged, and eventually assumed the appearance of an incontrovertible, absolute truth.”
“And yet, despite all these niggling doubts, we still love and revere our Masters unconditionally and only wish the best for them.”
“Several enduring questions confront us:
One question: Do our Masters have, in turn, their own Masters? If so, does each of our Masters have their own personal Master, or is there just one Master of all Masters? If latter is the case, does that Master of all Masters appear as omnipotent, omniscient, all-good to our Masters as our Masters appear to us? Does the Master of all Masters bestow the same love and care upon our Masters as our Masters confer upon us? Does the Master of all Masters sometimes also act in seemingly violent, senseless ways towards them, and do our Masters accept his incomprehensible deeds with the same grace and unwavering faith that we accept all of our Masters’ actions towards us, no matter how vicious or arbitrary they may appear to be? Do our Masters love the Master of Masters unequivocally, regardless of how he treats them, or do our Masters sometimes doubt the Master of Masters’ absolute goodness?
Another question: Given that each one of us has our own all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good Master, does it follow that all Masters are equal in their strength, wisdom and virtuousness? Or are some Masters more omnipotent, more omniscient, more perfectly good than others?
And another question: Why is it that our Masters cannot learn how to speak correctly and how to express themselves properly through their facial expressions, given that they are all-powerful and all-knowing?
But most puzzling of all, the issue that most deeply concerns and mystifies us is the presence of some malevolent entity which attacks our Masters even while they are safe and cosy in the giant, secure kennels, with us by their side. How it gains access to the giant lair is an enigma we are yet to figure out.
So far our observations have revealed that this creature possesses no solid body, has no claws or fangs, gives off no smell and moves in total silence.
Nevertheless, despite its apparent intangibility, the powers of this implacable foe are formidable in their magnitude.
It is capable of distracting our Masters, taking their attention away from us. It can upset them to the extent that they become completely indifferent to us, and even incapacitate them to the point where they no longer care for us. Consequently, the solving of this mystery is of utmost importance and urgency to us all.
As yet, we have had no success in making any progress with this dilemma, apart from one tiny possible clue, although it may not be of any relevance or of any help in solving this problem. A vocalisation which sounds a lot like “black dog” is often uttered by our Masters when they are under attack by this sinister creature. Yet we fail to see how there could be any connection between this entity and a black dog, for a lot of us are not black, and so our Masters are obviously not referring to us. And in any case, it is impossible to believe that a dog of any kind, black or otherwise, would ever do anything as horrible to our Masters as what this creature does to them.
Perhaps we have been regarding this conundrum from a wrong perspective. Rather than looking at it straight in the face, what if we were to tilt our heads and look at it from an angle? The world always makes more sense when seen atilt, and this problem too might be easily and readily resolved from a different viewpoint.
But there could be an even simpler solution: if only our Masters were to disclose to us the whereabouts of this hateful enemy, we would rush at it with all our might, assail it with our teeth, deafen it with our shouts and scare it away forever.”
BORIS GLIKMAN is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia. He says: “Writing for me is a spiritual activity of the highest degree. Writing gives me the conduit to a world that is unreachable by any other means, a world that is populated by Eternal Truths, Ineffable Questions and Infinite Beauty. It is my hope that these stories of mine will allow the reader to also catch a glimpse of this universe.”
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