With the world in turmoil, suffering a plague that has killed more than 1.5 million people = everyone in Philadelphia, Phoenix or San Antonio; and the U.S. death toll at 275,000 and counting = every man, woman and child in Toledo, or Jersey City, Buffalo or St. Petersburg; may we talk for a moment about the lessons and consolations we’re offered by dogs?
Of course we can — and should.
Dogs’ lessons to us are trust, love and faithfulness.
Not faith — perhaps the most debased and abused word by the millions of humans who use it — but faithfulness.
The difference is that faith involves things unseen, and not subject to proof; but faithfulness can be seen and is provable.
The hundreds of predatory Catholic priests, and the despicable Jerry Falwell Jr. claim to have faith — but to what are they faithful? And how can they prove it?
If you have a dog, he expects you to feed him every day. That’s not faith; it’s faithfulness: a two-way street. It’s not dependence on “things unseen;” it’s dependence on what he’s seen every day since he came into your house.
Love? Who knows what love is? But the purest form of it, on this planet, was demonstrated by the Akita Hachiko, whose master, Hidesaburō Ueno, died at work in Tokyo on May 21, 1925, after which Hachiko waited faithfully for him — for nearly 10 years — to return to the Shibuya Station subway stop, until Hachiko died, on March 3, 1935.
Citizens of Tokyo brought Hachiko food and water and erected a statue of the faithful dog at Shibuya Station. If that ain’t love, faithfulness and trust, then I don’t know what is.
When it comes to these three qualities — love, trust and faithfulness — it’s the rare human, if any, who rises to the level of the average dog. I can think of one, though.
I was walking my Akita, Rufus, through Old Town Murrieta, many moons ago, when an elderly woman, ramrod straight, stepped out of a store.
“That’s a beautiful Akita,” she said, in a no-nonsense voice.
“Thank you,” I said. I gauged she was a retired high school principal at a Catholic school. She was a nun, and a retired nurse. She told me this story.
World War II had just ended and she was sent to Japan to tend to thousands of Japanese people living under armed guard at a refugee camp just outside the cinders of Hiroshima. The occupants were under orders not to leave the camp at night. If they did, they could be shot.
“General MacArthur had ordered all Akitas to be shot on sight, because they were a symbol of Japanese pride,” the nun told me, sternly.
One day, someone in the camp told her that a woman was leaving the camp every night to go into Hiroshima. She showed the nun the tiny hole in the fence where she did it.
So the nun set a trap for her: When the sun went down, she hid and waited. Sure enough, a woman emerged from the camp and slipped through the hole, carrying something. The nun followed her into the ruins of Hiroshima.
Several blocks into the blasted city, the woman lifted up a sizable piece of plywood and stepped into a hole.
“I figured she was feeding her husband,” the nun said. Men and women were held in separate camps. So the nun walked up to the plywood and waited for the woman to emerge, which she did.
Busted. By a nun.
“I picked up the plywood and saw a mother Akita with pups,” the nun said. “So. I countermanded MacArthur’s orders.” She took the dogs back to the camp and dared any GI, including Douglas MacArthur, to lay a hand on them.
Take it from me: Don’t mess with a nun.
She brought two of the puppies back with her to the States.
“No,” she said, dismissing me and Rufus, “I won’t have any dog but an Akita.”
Who is the hero of this story? Not the nun. (OK, maybe the nun.) It’s the survivor of Hiroshima who risked her life to feed a dog and her puppies.
Dogs are better than men. Better than women? Umm … I dunno. But definitely better than men.