Ecce Canis

     The funniest thing I have ever seen is puppy obedience school.
     Fourteen puppies: my dog Chester, two enormous Irish wolfhounds, a mastiff, a couple of German shepherds, some tiny little dudes, and a bunch of dogs in between, all 4 months old, all Curious About Everything in the World, all Innocent as Eve Before she Bit the Apple, all squirming and flopping and sniffing and occasionally paying attention. For a few seconds. Then being puppies again.
     I signed Chester up because Jane loves her cats. And Chester is a very large puppy …
     When Jane enters a room these days holding something in her hand – anything at all – I say, “I’ll buy another one!”
     Today, it was the letter V.
     Well, not exactly the letter V.
     It was more like … umm … a computer keyboard.
     How Chester got that letter off the keyboard, and why he chose the V, is beyond me. Perhaps if you are a dog breeder you might enlighten us.
     But there was no question about it: that V was of no use anymore, to God nor man.
     Or to Chester.
     So I got Jane a V.
     A keyboard, I mean.
     To go along with the quilt.
     And the sheets.
     And the coat.
     And the shoes.
     And a slipper or two.
     And the chair.
     And so on.
     Not that Chester is a bad dog.
     No, no. Chester is a good dog.
     He’s just a puppy.
     He chews things.
     But not the cats.
     No, no. The cats can handle Chester.
     Just yesterday I saw the little cat chasing Chester all around the yard.
     The cat weighs about 8 pounds.
     Chester weighs about 50.
     But that cat had him buffaloed.
     Chester will be a Great Big Dog someday – pretty soon, actually – and he will protect me from Everything Else In The World.
     He’s already doing it – burglars, tax collectors, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the mailman – if they want to get to me, they have to go through Chester.
     In this manner, Chester repays me for the havoc he is wreaking.
     What am I saying?
     Chester owes me nothing.
     Chester loves me with A Love That Is Beyond Human.
     And I love him in just the same way. Though I am a human. I think.
     Though perhaps I am not. As I get older, and read the news, I am persuaded more and more, day by day, that human beings do not know what love is.
     But dogs know it.
     There is not a mean or deceitful or selfish bone in Chester’s body.
     All he wants to do is play, and defend me from Whatever’s Out There.
     I never told him that was his job. Chester just knows it.
     He knows a lot of stuff. He knows how to let himself into the house. Learned it himself. He just pops up on his hind legs and twists the doorknob.
     The other day he opened the door for our old golden retriever, Rosie. Chester didn’t come into the house himself. He just opened the door for Rosie.
     It was kind of scary to see. Chester was so casual about it.
     There are four things a human being needs to do to be Wholly Human.
     These things are: 1) climb a mountain, 2) read a book, 3) love another human being, and 4) take care of an animal.
     I have chosen to take care of a dog. And he takes care of me.
     In this sense, we are both human beings.
     Except for the part about the book.

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