In a short story titled “Dogs” Ring Lardner wrote, “A man can’t be all bad when he is so kind to dogs…well friends when you come right down to cases they’s (sic) about as much sence (sic) to this as a good many delusions we got here in this country…”
Meditate on Lardner’s statement. It’s true. A man can treat dogs with kindness and still be an angry, hate-filled asshole or a genocidal dictator. I do believe there is a sliver of hope to reconstitute angry or hateful human beings into decent human beings if they love their dogs. Something good lurks there. Imagine the angry man’s dog as an unwittingly disguised or camouflaged entrance to a deep, dark, limestone cave where his heart resides. A person can enter that dog cave as a spelunker, and explore for the presence of a heart. If the spelunker discovers the heart, no matter how hardened or sclerotic, perhaps the discovery begins medicine. Why not start the healing with the love of a dog? In recent years, I’ve spelunkered into many a person’s angry or indifferent heart via their dog. I’ve met with both success and failure in these attempts, but I never stop trying.
Time for a painful admission: I used Sonny the husky’s invalid condition as an excuse for not acting as a better human being or even a mediocre one. What that means is that I told people I had to care for her and could not get away from home. What that means is that I did not spare the time to care for friends suffering from cancer, divorce, dislocation addiction and mental illness. I am deeply ashamed of this. I often wrote about Sonny and held myself up as a pedestal of virtue in my steadfast caring for her. I did care for her with all my heart, but I shut my heart off to others who needed me. Please forgive me. I have asked.
I don’t want to become an anti-human dog person as I get older. I’ve seen evidence of that in many elderly people, particularly those volunteering at animal shelters. Humans have dealt these people truly terrible, brutal hands. They themselves might have dealt other humans equally terrible, brutal hands. Dogs are the only creature they can now care about. Don’t let a dog become that to you. You can care for both.