Wednesday, December 19, 2007

In the Dogroverse

I love to watch dogs interact . . . the subtle choreography of canine social intercourse. Before I left my little Northern city I saw this one.

My Dirty-Smelly is a substantial dog, at least forty pounds, but when he was a pup he was badly roughed up by a neighborhood dog. He was bitten, and he bled, and he retains a morbid fear of the other dog to this day. The dog in question is a little white dog, very, very aggressive, very territorial, all far out of proportion to his size.

The little white dog is quite the martinet; he does not walk, he struts; he is a bully to dogs, cows and chickens alike. I don't like him one bit. He has a concubine, a very attractive black and tan bitch. She will join in the bullying of other dogs, especially Dirty-Smelly. She's a nice looking dog, but I don't like her either.

Lately I had noticed another dog in the neighborhood, a large brown, white and black male with huge, bone-crushing, neck-crushing jaws, jaws like a Pit Bull, like a real fighting dog. Very stately he is, almost noble, no owner, I'll warrant, just passing through, he'll stay as long as he can find food. He must weigh sixty pounds, a real canine Hercules.

On the day in question I was idly sitting, reading and drinking, in that order, in the mid-afternoon when I heard a clamour from the dodgroverse. First a whining sound, like a chastised, submitting dog, 'that will be Dirty-Smelly' I correctly guessed. I looked up and saw the black and tan bitch go by, followed closely by the new dog, who was in turn followed closely by the little white dog, who was growling impressively but not showing any teeth at all, not even the tip of one.

The new dog was obviously interested in the bitch, he was following her closely. She proceeded as though disinterested. The little white dog was growling so furiously that it was a little disturbing to listen to. Sometimes he would walk around in front of the new dog as though to impede his progress, thrusting his snout to within an inch of the snout of the new dog and growling, I swear, malevolently.

The new dog would pause momentarily, look away, clench his vast, dangerous jaw muscles, stand still with his ears and tail held high, then turn slightly and begin again to follow the bitch as though the little white dog were not there. The little white dog would then take a few steps off and claw at the ground with desparate energy; then he would begin to growl again and go back to following the new dog.

When I am witness to scenes like this, whether it is dogs, or birds, or whatever animals are involved, I feel witness to the pre-verbal communications of my own kind: the hominids. We were once thus.

The bitch was saying: you boys work it out.
The little white dog sayeth: please don't kill, me but this is my bitch.
The new dog said: the bitch is nothing to me, and you can growl all you want, but if you show me your teeth this is your last day on earth.

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