We all know that there are certain kinds of thrills that are worth the risk, that the forbidden fruit can taste sweetest when it’s a chocolate sneaked from Mom’s birthday gift selection (not that I would know anything about any such thing from my youth!), the extra hour out past curfew when one thinks one’s parents are out of the house, the bouquet picked from a neighbor’s flowerbed en route home from grade school. And there’s no doubt that some are drawn to romance most powerfully when it is risky, when it defies convention, when it defies logic. Is anyone really immune to the lure of breaking with tradition, just a little?
There are lots of jokes and stories that capitalize on the idea that dogs, in their seemingly endless optimism and enthusiastic belief that practically every moment of their existence is the best of its kind. I’ve never lived with a dog as my consistent companion, but I’ve been around other people’s dogs, and seen the people owned by some additional dogs, and it all tends to confirm that quality of canine character. And frankly, that seems to me to be a perfect attitude to emulate, whether you belong to a dog or not.
I may not have the sort of tail that lends itself to wagging with happiness at life’s goodness and I certainly am not the kind to show my appreciation for such things by jumping up to lick anybody on the ear, but I should at the very least state my admiration for what is fine and good and pleasing so that they can know how highly I esteem such gifts. Life, no matter how a dog might enthuse over it, isn’t perfect, and it has its flaws and less than ideal moments. So when the great and admirable happens, I should jolly well share the happiness and let others in on it. Short of barking and running around in circles dizzily, I think that can be appropriately expressed in ways that let other humans in on the secret.
Happiness, whether doggy or human, is best shared, after all. And from what I’ve seen, when dogs and humans can be happy all together, that can be quite the extravaganza of joy indeed. If you feel like it, go ahead and lean back and let out a nice little howl or two of celebration right along with me, and I’ll race you to the sidewalk and back!
It’s good that fiction has not entirely neglected the intelligence of the porcine race. There are such admirable figures as the marvelous Wilbur, saved in E. B. White’s superb story by that great media campaign waged by the arachnid heroine of ‘Charlotte’s Web‘; the stalwart Babe of Dick King-Smith’s ‘The Sheep-Pig‘, famous for being Farmer Hoggett’s eventual go-to pig for sheep herding and assorted acts of clever heroism; there’s the not so brilliant but ever so endearing Porky Pig, he of the stammering charm and accidental accomplishments. There are Snowball and Napoleon, who use their canny piggy wits in a dystopian world to prove that some pigs are more equal than others, a less sweet and engaging use of porcine wit and intelligence than some might like, but they are still outnumbered in the literary pen by Miss Potter’s little creature Pigling Bland and his far less bland but equally stimulating porker, Mr. Wodehouse’s Empress of Blandings.
All of these, of course owe a certain debt to their famous forebears (or forepigs) who were Little in size and Three in number. The Three Little Pigs, not all of them geniuses, I grant you, manage eventually to outwit the beastly Wolf. They’re so good at it, in fact, that their cleverness has continued to be immortalized for ages since their first appearance and they star in everything from many classic-styled re-tellings to a wide range of variants like Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s delightful ‘True Story‘ and even the Ninjas in Corey Rosen Schwartz’s version.
And still there are so many real, live pigs with even more impressive mental acuity than all of those little pretend ones put together; just ask any pig person (farmer or veterinarian or person with a companion animal). Ask Celi over at thekitchensgarden about Sheila’s exploits and the adventures and discoveries of the plonkers (the half-grown young pigs); go over there and Search her site for Sheila posts, and you too will grow wiser.
I hear a lot of people praising horses for being as intelligent as dogs and dogs, then, as smart as apes; apes, in their turn, for being as smart as their cousin humans—but I would be pretty flattered, myself, if anyone found me as clever as a pig.
So it’s Monday. All. Day. Long. One of those times when you can easily believe in the purported accursedness of the day; one unlucky, frustrating, impossible thing after another and not a coffee break in sight. We’ve all had ’em. Rotten, rotten Mondays, no matter what day of the week in reality, are the bane of humankind.
Dogs, however, rarely let a Monday take their essential doggy happiness away. It takes, in fact, quite a lot of horribleness to take the equanimity and enthusiastic canine capering down to a level recognizable as sad, and once cheered up again, dogs are remarkably good at forgiving and forgetting. Barring ill-treatment or illness, every day is the greatest day ever to your average dog.
It’s not that dogs are stupid. Far from it; some dogs I’ve known would beat some people I’ve known at any IQ test, and the average dog is a pretty clever problem solver and able to perform all sorts of magnificent deeds, accomplish numerous astounding feats. It’s more that dogs, simply, seem to have a highly developed power for living in the moment, finding the good in the small and ordinary and letting unpleasantness drift past them as quickly as the turning of the world will allow. They’re not much on sulking, self-pity, or wallowing and very rarely hold grudges–and these, as far as I’ve seen, only when pressed to it by persons or events truly deserving of their scorn.
What dogs seem to hold among their many fine and useful instincts is the one that tells one to be thrilled when a maple seed helicopters out of a tree in his path, to slurp lustily at a handy puddle of water when thirsty, and to leap into the air rather than toddling through the weeds when crossing the parking strip to get to the park for a romp. The wisdom to nuzzle the hand that pets him, to lie like a shaggy, comforting blanket on the cold feet of a human companion when he’s sad and to shoot across the house like water from a fire hose when the other human gets home from her long day at the office. All of this is noble work, and keeping as busy at it as any good dog does makes him far too busy to mope and snarl and bemoan his bad fortune. Even on a typical Monday.
I’m not here a second time today to announce I’ve discovered the cure for halitosis, let alone cancer. But I’m back simply to share a link with you because another blogger’s words for today had such a thought-provoking effect on me and I figured you might find them equally intriguing. Jen, the smart and compassionate translator/interpreter for her charming and handsome malamute Rumpy over at Rumpydog, is a committed animal activist. My friends, you know that it’s more likely I should be committed [IYKWIM] than true that I am disciplined, self-confident or wise enough to be an active advocate for much of anything. But today Jen addressed a topic that’s long been nagging at me, to the extent that I know I’ve actually mentioned it to you: it’s not that we as humans are incapable of caring about things enough, too stupid to figure out some solutions, or unwilling to do the hard work to enact them–it’s that we are too self-centered to do so together with anyone who fails to think and care about, and approach, those problems in precisely the way we personally approve.
I’m absolutely certain that no matter how much I liked or admired Jen it would be impossible for me to agree 100% with her on everything, or her with me. But I’m also sure that I do deeply respect her commitment and willingness to act on it and speak her mind. So I encourage you to go and visit her to read her most sensible, cogent piece I’ve seen in ages about what does and doesn’t work in discussing, promoting, advocating for or acting in *any* good cause. I don’t know a solution, because I suspect it’s such a universal ill among humans that it would require Nobel Peace Prize brilliance *plus*. But if we gather around the conference table determined to listen, learn and share the best of ourselves, there just might be some hope for us. The very thought cheers me.Happy days to all of you, and many thanks to Jen for sharing. (Click on the word ‘sharing’ to go to her blog.)
I suppose it’s incumbent upon me to state clearly that I do understand that a lazy and fearful person like me is unlikely to plunge into newness and adventure, no matter how alluring the topic or event. Not that you didn’t already know this about me from any number of previous confessions and revelations in a related vein. Yet while my lack of courage and spirit will undoubtedly hound me for the rest of my days, I’m happy to report that I still manage to grow and change over time, if perhaps more slowly and accidentally than others do so.The ancient adage that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ is ridiculously pessimistic, if you ask me. I’ve known plenty of senior citizens to avidly pursue and conquer all sorts of new skills and knowledge, and I’m working my way toward being a bit of a Grandma Moses myself, being ever hopeful that at least by the time I hit my eighties I might also hit my stride in whatever turns out to be my life’s calling. But beyond vocation or avocation, that tired and cynical aphorism also assumes that we can’t just continue to better ourselves once we hit a mythical age barrier. What an unpleasant and unproductive idea!I much prefer the concept of discovering what we are capable of learning, accomplishing and enjoying for the first time (or anew) and embracing it at whatever pace suits us. While others are busy jumping through hoops of flame and running obstacle courses and playing catch with other dogged devotees of the disc, if all I can do is learn to Sit Up and Beg, then at least I’ll get some handouts from wiser, more talented and skilled beings. Could be downright fun, and I’ll lap it right up I’m sure. It certainly beats sticking forever to the one trick I’ve known best since my youth, Rolling Over and Playing Dead.
To my beloved youngest sister on her birthday:
Taking life from the real to the magical and from drabness to brilliance, luminosity is the agent of glorious change. Little Sister is such an agent in many lives as well, bringing beauty and joy to us solely by existing, let alone having the sweetness and humor and wisdom that fill her with the warm inner light I so treasure. Simply, my world would be far smaller and more limited to the dull version of reality if it weren’t for the presence of her gracious illumination!
With that in mind, here is a series of illustrations of that progression of luminosity to celebrate the gifts of sisterly love.
For a universe where we’re all so hung up on our status, image and importance, the world as we know it is also the locus of a truly great leveler: fun. Very rare is the person, however high or low in the hierarchy of social or political or religious or educational import, who doesn’t relish laughter. Fun, and the love of it, are boundary-resistant. Childlike happiness should know no limits.
I know the little tale attributing to Queen Victoria the remark that ‘We are not amused’–a condition she can easily be forgiven for bemoaning, even if it was ostensibly because of someone else’s attempts to convince her of his own divergent sort of hilarity. Throughout history, contentment has been best enjoyed when it’s pushed to its jovial limits by gently encouraging frolic and humor, curiosity and amazement and amusement that can be shared. The current culture oughtn’t to hold anyone back from being pleased and entertained any more than these should be constrained by one’s politics, nationality, gender, tastes, age or any other facet of personal identity. Joy is joy, no matter what your nature or your preferred brand.
So I, for one, think it’s a good idea to cultivate smiles and laughter and playfulness as assiduously as I can. If I can share it with others, even better. If others can contribute some fun to the cause as well, we might be able among us to create a contagious stream of happiness that can expand further and further yet. Doesn’t that sound worthwhile, now, really?
While all you two-legs types are mired
And wallowing in wintry fear,
I see spring’s hints and am inspired
To smell the happiness from here
What gain or merit mankind finds
In only frigid, dormant joy,
When you could wag those sad behinds,
Dance forward, every girl and boy—
Hold on to sorrow if you must,
While I lap up those thrills made dear
By breaking through the frozen dust:
I smell the happiness from here!
The interviewer from Wagging Wonders paused. Biscuit cocked her head thoughtfully, now reminiscing about her youth. In the old days, before the invention of the Frisbee®, dogs had to be so much more clever and agile to chase and catch those passing spaceships. Pups these days! They have no idea how easy they have it. Why, if it hadn’t been for Biscuit and Sprocket, all of Montana would’ve been overrun by those little orange beings that dodged their yipping and nipping, landing covertly in Seattle instead, in ’62.