Dialogue - Issue #15
A journey of trust, healing, and enduring love.
As we sit by a fire, I tell Karl and Nora that we do not have to be good to be loved. I whisper that we must keep each other safe and we must not hurt others, but we do not have to be good. I do not own them, Karl and Nora. We are a family, and in being a family we join a long line of humans and dogs who have a sacred bond.
Homo sapiens’ bond with Canis familiaris, is, at a minimum, over 15,000 years old, long before domesticated crops, and long before domesticated herds. There is no relationship with another animal like the one we have with dogs. Cats are a more recent domestication - around 10,000 years ago - and other animals we must cage, fence in, or trap to force them to be near us.
Yet, in violation of our bond, our people oppress dogs. Humans force them to reproduce and then take their puppies, while tens of thousands of unwanted dogs are abandoned and killed every year. Humans yank on their throats and raise their voices, and find ways to force them to behave by human standards with prongs and chains and shocks. Humans disregard our sacred bond, and for this reason, I do not believe that most humans love dogs.
My dogs can bite. Karl and Nora can bite through bones. They would bite a stranger, although they never have. The three of us have learned to manage our anxiety, learned to feel safe in this seemingly unsafe world, a world they have no reason to trust. They gently take treats from my hand, whiskers snuffling, and let me brush their teeth.
They are old, by the measure of a dog’s years. They came to us old. They came to us with a jumpiness and distrust, and many worries. They will have known more years of neglect and violence than years without them. Karl, the gentle boy covered in scars, for years caged with a concrete floor; tentative, spinning when he is happy, with a tenor range. Nora, the big girl with a fear of people; humans are always a violent threat until months prove otherwise. A broken spine tells us of the humans she knew before us. She has galaxy eyes, playfulness, and a range of soft barks, each of which means something different, which she has taught me to understand.
Karl and Nora love work - their ancestors would have worked as guardians, guarding the livestock of Romania. They can do scent work, solve puzzles, communicate with me, check in with me on walks if they are scared or do something brave like greet a new person. Their brilliance never fails to amaze me.
They trust me. Of all that I have done in my life, their trust is what I am most proud of. Slowly, gently, over visits, with patience, they learned to trust. I promise them that I will never betray that trust. I honour that ancient sacred bond with Karl and Nora.
We sit by a fire, thinking of the ancient versions of us that may have met by a fire, Canis familiaris offering their guardianship, Homo sapiens offering sustenance. I now offer both, and they offer me everything else.
Karl and Nora