About dogs and cats

  • AlltheDogs_EvonArim coverI’ve been making my way through all the works of Elizabeth von Arnim, who wrote The Enchanted April. I can’t exactly say why I wanted to read all 21 of her books, as well as her biography, but I find E. (as I tend to call her) a kindred spirit in a lot of ways, and I am charmed by her curiosity, generosity and perspective.

    So I wasn’t too surprised in her autobiographical study of dogs entitled (plainly enough) All The Dogs of My Life, to read that she opens with this sweeping introductory accolade:

    I would like, to begin with, to say that though parents, husbands, children, lovers and friends are all very well, they are not dogs. In my day and turn having been each of the above — except that instead of husbands I was wives — I know what I am talking about, and am well acquainted with the ups and downs … which seem inevitably to accompany human loves.

    Dogs are free from these fluctuations. Once they love, they love steadily, unchangingly, till their last breath.

    That is how I like to be loved.

    Clementine idolizes GregI think all that is true. Being pack animals, dogs look to their alpha dog for affirmation, information and direction. Lacking an alpha dog, God has ordained in His majesty that they look to a human and, if he or she is deemed the alpha, they extend that same level of intense connection.

    I was the recipient of those great waves of trust and obedience from Clementine the Hound-dog, and I totally get the attractiveness of this bond. But I don’t understand why so many dog people have a blind spot where other pets, especially cats, are concerned.

    In E’s book, she wrote of her childhood cats this way:

    One likes response, and there is very little of that to be got out of them. Lofty and aloof, forever wrapped in remote, mysterious meditation, they allow themselves to be adored, and give hardly anything back. Except purrs. I admit purrs are enchanting, and I used to long to have one myself, but just purrs don’t nourish the hungry human heart in search of something to fill its emptiness, … Besides, how chilling, how snubbing, to be merely looked at when one calls. No blandishments could make those cats stir if they weren’t in the mood, and one does want whatever one is calling to come. More, one wants it to come enthusiastically, ready for any lark going. One wants, that is, a playfellow, a companion, a friend. One wants, in fact, a dog.

    Sen_lifeisgoodShe doesn’t pretend that that’s anything but one woman’s opinion, but I’ve heard other feline-challenged people say things along those lines. Personally, I don’t get that whole “They’re so aloof” thing. I’m just as likely to be swamped in feline affection on a given day as I was in canine affection. But cats — and for that matter, birds — have a different way of showing it.  Most cats are their own fur person, as opposed to looking to an alpha or the pack, and so they’re not likely to evince the kind of behavior that we interpret as unconditional love.

    I think that E. gets to the bottom of the dog-lover’s reproof when she says that they don’t come when you call. But to me that’s like saying that cats don’t wag their tails enough. No, they don’t, because they’re working with a different set of instructions. But it doesn’t mean, as I heard one young Christian say it, that dogs are reminders of our beginnings in the Garden of Eden and cats are reminders of the pride that got us kicked out.

    Clem and AceDogs are what they are, and cats are what they are, and WE add the coloring. If we meet our pets in heaven, I wouldn’t be surprised if the first object of their affection isn’t their erstwhile master or mistress, or even another cat or dog, but their Creator. After all, it was from Him that all their instructions proceeded, except for those few additional ones that were channeled through their human.

    We can learn a lot from either species, and from the many other animal friends we might meet. I intend to try and to add as little of my own head-trash to the lessons as I can.

5 Responses and Counting...

  • Photini 01.24.2013

    "If we meet our pets in heaven, I wouldn’t be surprised if the first object of their affection isn’t their erstwhile master or mistress, or even another cat or dog, but their Creator. "

    Oh, my! What a thought! And as it should be! But certainly not what most of us would have come to at first thought. We have made ourselves the center of their universe. We have made ourselves to be gods! A new form of idolatry – and perhaps much worse than worshiping one.

    Thank you for setting us all straight!

  • Well, let's not assume I'm correct about that too far in advance. But I admit, it was a thought that came to me when I was observing, for the umpteenth time, that there is something just weird going on with people who own aggressive dogs. Whether it's a man or a woman, I have felt time and time again like they do lip service to being upset that their dog is threatening you or biting or barking (and some people don't even bother with the lip service — some will turn on you and tell you why it's YOUR fault their dog is behaving badly). But I imagined those people in heaven, if that dog showed fealty first and foremost to its Maker. I think they'd actually be furious. I'm not sure what I'm saying there, but I think somehow I'm right.

  • I love the word "head-trash." Gonna look for a way to squeeze it into conversation this week.

  • :-) I forget when I first started hearing this, but as you say, once you hear it, you instantly see how useful of a word it is. It replaces the more problematic ‘bullsh*t’, without any of the negatives of profanity.

  • God has and does uses dogs in mysterious ways. Wanting my own spiritual father that I can pester and blame for answers and then point to when things don’t go my way, I have prayed fairly consistently (at least measured in terms of how I pray) for a spiritual director. I have yet to be endowed with or trusted with my very own elder(ess). I attribute this to an outworking of God’s grace as He knows that I am not anywhere near the point that such a person would be of true help (I understand that I am still on the interstate, have not gotten off that superhighway onto the much narrower and arduous trail that calls for such inner exertion).

    However, He has condescendingly blessed me with not one but two (two I supposed because of my neediness) spiritual guides of the four-legged terrier or honestly described, terrorist variety, Betsy and Layla. ….

    Read the rest HERE

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