The first recorded dog story of all time is from the Odyssey and it set the standard for the next 3000 years. Odysseus returns after 20 years and his 20-year old dog Argo recognizes him in disguise, wags his tail, but is too weak to get up and greet his beloved master. Odysseus sheds a tear and Argo dies. Twenty five years ago I read a short story in an Istanbul library titled “Dog People” where a family who owned dogs turned them into vicious creatures that menaced the neighborhood. I have never forgotten this cruel story but have never been able to find it again, even with the help of the Internet. Emily Dickinson had dogs in her life but none of them made it into her poems. Odd. What is the greatest memorial to a dog in the world? I once saw a local man beat up another man, a tourist, on the beach because the tourist kicked the local man’s off leash dogs in the faces and hurt them. I did not intervene. The most harrowing dog scene from a novel that I have read is the opening sequence of Pete Dexter’s Brotherly Love. In it, a dog attacks a girl struck dead by a car, the girl’s brother attacks the dog, and then the car’s owner (a mobster) empties his revolver into the dog after carrying the girl’s body into her house, whose father is also connected to the mob.
The Nobel Prize winning author Thomas Mann wrote an unusual short story titled “A Man and His Dog.” It was published in 1918. It is a story about a dog, but more of a cryptic tale of how humans might be better served emulating the life of dogs. Mann wrote: “Animals are more primitive and less inhibited in giving expression to their mental state—there is a sense in which one might say they are more human.” A dog is more human than a human. Now that’s something to consider.
In 1922, Franz Kafka wrote a 15,000-word short story though the voice of an old dog titled “Investigations of a Dog.” It is perhaps the most metaphysical thing ever written about dogs, and at times almost impossible to fathom. Clearly, though, the dog is writing about humans. Here are some of the more arresting lines. As I read them, I realized they were precisely what my book about my adventures with Bonnie and Clyde was all about.
I began to inquire into the question what the canine (human) race nourished itself upon.
All knowledge, the totality of all questions and all answers, is contained in the dog.
…change begins in the (human) soul before it appears in ordinary existence, and that, when they begin to enjoy a dog’s life, they must have already possessed real old dogs’ souls.
I still can’t believe Thoreau didn’t have a dog with him at Walden. I like to think Thelma and Louise would not have driven over the cliff had they owned a dog. I once had to break up a fight to the death on the beach between two of my dogs and nearly lost a finger. I still have a scar under my left eye where a German shepherd bit me in my youth. A Doberman pinscher almost mauled me in my youth.
One of my favorite lines ever overhead in an Oregon tavern: “I’d like to introduce you my dog that drinks up all my Jameson. It was an English bulldog and it wore an ascot. I don’t think Bruce Springsteen has a single mention of a dog in all his working class anthems. That seems very off to me.
Some of my favorite moments with dogs were around a burn barrel, usually alone, late at night, looking at the stars, listening to the fire, thinking about this and that. I was always present there.
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