Monday, March 19, 2007

Divine Dogs

Way back in 1987, when we were living in Washington, DC, I read and clipped this article by Henry Mitchell out of the Washington Post. That was long before I ever dreamed of having a dog myself; at that time, we had a cat, and we might have gone so far as to say we HATED dogs! But I don't know; this was just so funny and well-written and beautiful, I had to save it. Maybe it was a premonition of what the future would hold for us.

I recently found the article when looking through old cartoons, and thought it was so good, I wanted to post it on the blog for people to read. I don't think it's been anthologized in any of Mitchell's collections, and since it was from the pre-Internet age, it would be hard to find if you didn't know where to look for it. Alas, when I wrote to the Washington Post asking for permission, they told me that they were not currently granting permission to reprint Op-Ed pieces, but I could use such parts of it I thought suitable under the Fair Use rules. Accordingly, I can't reproduce the whole thing, but I will put down a few of the best paragraphs, and encourage anyone who can to pay the $3.95 to read it, until it somehow becomes available for free.
Why, you may ask, should so thoughtful a columnist urge the total phasing out of dogs in our country? Why, the dog eats $500 worth of food a year, he says, and this food or at least this money could go to the poor.

We may remember that woman who once broke an alabaster vial of precious ointment and was rebuked for extravagance--should not the money have been spent on the poor? But a competent judge of virtue ruled she did well. Love ought not to be assaulted in the guise of charity.

It is well known that Adam was obliged to flee Eden, his only steady companion a good hound. What good were angels then? They lost no time snarling at him in his distress, and one took a flaming sword against him. So much for angels. Even his dear wife was not much use, the day of his expulsion. Indeed, if she had cared more for dogs, and less for serpents and devils, it would have been better. Or so the Good Book reminds us... Dominican monks of the Middle Ages, to whom civilization owes something by the way, could think of no more pious name for their order than Domini canes, the dogs of God. Presumptuous, you may say, but they meant it in hope, and as a title to be earned...

Take the sparkling terrier. What human ever deserved his high spirits, his irrepressible affection? Who ever earned, really, such eyes, such faith or such furry comfort when dark days come? Who can doubt the terrier eases the loss of Eden?

Or take the cur, the mongrel, your basic dog. He is the same in all nations and all generations. Despised and rejected by some, he yet bears in his chromosomes and his heart every possibility of Dog. And those who find divine love too hard to comprehend may well find the dog an earthly approximation. Giving freely and not to be denied....

But it is hard to see how one finds grace, who kicks a dog in word or deed, and such a person should think of that warning given by one theologian (in another connection perhaps):
Bethink you by the bowels of Christ that you may be mistaken.
Or, again:
Now put away the works of darkness for the whole armor of light while there is time beneath the sun; living day by day in peace in that joy well given to mortal men. (Dogs.)

2 Comments:

Blogger Ellie M said...

"It is well known that Adam was obliged to flee Eden, his only steady companion a good hound."

Err...I don't recall that particular passage from the Bible! But as a dog-owner, I can certainly vouch for their loving, loyal, and strangely human qualities.

8:46 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Maybe he read it in a Dominican bible!

7:17 am  

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