The Philosophy of Dogs

     Dogs are better philosophers than humans, of course. Dogs know how to be happy. Show me a happy philosopher.
     Dogs are superior to us, and happier than we are, because they want to be dogs. They want to do what dogs do.
     Whereas your average human wants to do what he can’t, and have what he don’t, and if life beats enough sense into him to show him that he can be only what he is, he’ll do it, but he won’t like it.
     “The hardest thing for everyone is to be himself,” Duke Ellington said – a statement that bears at least two looks.
     It shouldn’t be hard, because we can’t do anything else, but humans still will spend most of their lives trying to do something else.
     Up at the top of the mile-long hill where I turn around on my bike ride there’s 25 acres of farmland, mostly grass and clover for the dairy farms below. Last weekend a dog club was up there, training their pooches to be trackers. The dogs aren’t going to hunt for people lost in avalanches or typhoons; they’re training for AKC competitions, or just having fun being dogs.
     I stopped to talk to the weathered old flinty woman in charge. She must have been pushing 70, but probably could have whupped me in a 12-mile hike.
     She’d been out that morning walking through the tall grass, dropping stuff here and there. A crew of volunteers went with her, criss-crossing her trail, doubling back, planting little orange flags so the humans could tell what was what. We watched a young husky take the boss lady’s scent from a cloth, then head out into grass taller than he was.
     He found the first item with no trouble at all, got praise and kept looking. That dog was one happy critter. He knew just what to do.
     Many a time I’ve seen a fox light out across the field where I walk my dog, Rufus, and when Rufus hits the scent he goes bonkers and follows the fox – always in the right direction. I asked the boss lady how Rufus knows which way the fox went.
     “Scent has direction,” she said.
     How does scent have direction? I asked.
     She said she doesn’t know, but it must, because dogs never miss it. They’ll never follow the scent in the wrong direction.
     My stepfather is a flavor chemist – one of the best in the business. Eating dinner with him is a strange experience. “Don’t you love those fatty esters?” he’ll say. I don’t know if I like fatty esters or not. He’ll reel off one chemical after another and tell me that that’s what I like, or don’t.
     All I remember is that grapes taste like grapes because of methyl anthranylate.
     Ira has an educated nose, and a Ph.D., but he says he’s an idiot compared to the average dog.
     A dog’s nose knows things we will never understand.
     Of course, the worst human philosopher knows things a dog will never understand.
     Whether the things he knows help the philosopher, or make him happy, is beyond my power to say. I’ve known a few philosophers and none of them seemed half as happy as a dog.
     Dogs will turn around three times before they lie down. But your average human will turn round and round for hours and never get any rest at all.

%d bloggers like this: