I am the proud guardian of two exceptional dogs. They are incredibly dear to me. In fact, my life revolves around them. They are quite easy to love. Sometimes if Willa, the female, is sleeping comfortably on my bed, I will wait until she gets up on her own rather than risk disturbing her prematurely. Fortunately, If she senses that I am wanting to go to bed, she will leap up and go to her blankets by the wood stove without the slightest hint of inconvenience. There are many peculiar things about Willa. Some are secrets she and I keep, some we share with Maximus, her mate.
Maximus is not quite as intelligent as Willa; he is driven much more by instinct. Willa is also driven by the primitive forces within, but Maximus has little choice in the matter. Although he laments his failure to master himself, in the critical moment when he is tested, he can only do what his dog spirit tells him to do. Willa, on the other hand, gives every impression to me that she is a rational beast.
I have observed in animals a faculty that allows them to comprehend themselves as something worthy of admiration. When one looks upon an animal with a pleased countenance, there is an unmistakable response. Most often, the swelled chest is exhibited and the trimmed eyelids which convey a seriousness and a sort of honor. Their toes may extend a bit, and then recoil as they exhale. Some even smile, turning the mouth up a bit at its end, putting a wrinkle in the cheek.
It is lovely to be admired. There must be some advantage to the beast that develops the capacity to notice when it is being regarded in this way. It appears to charge them up, they absorb every pellet, it generates a kind of force field around them. Oh, how the beast loves to be admired.
I believe that animals can be awakened from a state of sub consciousness to a state of some consciousness higher than that. Call it what you will. I have witnessed this phenomenon in many species. I suspect there is a squirrel asleep not far from me that has awakened in this fashion. If so, he would be the most modest so far. The animals I have often watched transform in this way are dogs and goats, although I have seen it in cows and sheep too, among others. It is usually the consequence of some event, something out of the ordinary and unexpected.
The animal must first learn trust, usually in the midst of some chaos and confusion. The awakening originates in trust. Entering into this agreement with the beast can be difficult and even dangerous; some are simply not up to it. If the relationship persists then confidence follows. Where there is confidence the individual will invest, grow, and flourish. There will develop a willingness to do good and aspire to the ideals of noble character. This is where the strength of the beast returns, but is embodied differently, empowered by the promise of admiration.
One of the faculties that may develop in the awakened beast enables it to comprehend the world ironically. I have observed this in many animals. Initially, they see some element of the world in its absolute context: the thing exists only in its place. Soon though, they begin to identify the thing as distinct, mutable, and variable. When a goat has suddenly discovered this lovely glint in the substance of the world, it will spring into the air and kick its back feet, careening off with its head cocked, bouncing on its hooves as if they were springs.
Over the last couple of days, Willa has been fertile—in heat—and Maximus has been a basket case. They were not permitted to consummate their relationship this cycle. I am hoping to allow them to do so next time. As the heat progressed, Max kept careful track of Willa's state of readiness. When the egg was finally produced, he was immediately aware of it, and consequently so was I.
As the second day of fertility ticked by, I witnessed the way Maximus' excitement, and even glee, grew into sadness. It was as if he could feel the opportunity passing—he would not be granted the privilege to live on in that particular group of fertilized eggs. The chance to enjoy fatherhood was slipping away. His brow fell, he looked down, he gave up on trying to outsmart me and get around my preventative measures. He eventually resigned himself to the failure and it hurt me to witness his sorrow.
Willa too passed out of her slick state. She dreams now when she sleeps, as if she is playing with the puppies in some other universe. She realized easily that I was not going to allow it to happen this time. I have been pondering this post ovulation stupor I find myself in with these dogs. In some sense we are mourning. We are not mourning death, but lives that never will be. Our love extended into an impossible universe and touched things that do not exist in this more reasonable land. It is this unrealized desire, those of others, and the unachieved potential in us to recombine with one another, that we are left to ponder the impossibility of each passing day. As lovely as it is to indulge these emotions, if we are to avoid being consumed by them entirely, we must counter them with a potent will to create.
There are many voices today romanticizing violence—or violence gilded in resistance and revolt—as the most effective and even morally appropriate response to the destructive and ruthless forces of human power. These calls for the uprising only nourish oppression, while the suffering of the advocates only becomes more profound. They are wrestling with their own traumatic stress and the resentment that has grown up out of it. It is difficult however, to forgive them for their predatory nature as they seek others who have been wounded to exploit.
Many political movements are born of the wounds suffered by its members and advocates, and several such movements are growing in America today. They can be found on the left and the right, and although they strike a foundation in different ideals, one ideology resembles the other in one important way. In the end, they believe that they are right, everyone else is wrong, and the proof of this will be demonstrated with still more violence and destruction. Of course, their wrath and vengefulness will only fuel the engines of power they wish to destroy.
The sadness in us all for what has not come to be can be enjoyed, especially if it is mixed with the pleasure of modest accomplishment. In some sense, although many of our dreams do not breach the plane of physical existence, by virtue of their having passed through the tempest of the mind, they exist; they draw breath and hold promise. They deserve to be celebrated, while we make the world a more peaceful and beautiful place to live. The temptation to abandon the ideals that inspired us and embrace our darker despair will never leave us, we are beasts after all, every one of us, some more rational than others.