There is, I am ashamed to say, a weakness at the heart of dog.
I realised it slowly, and too late. The Woman, you see, takes particular delight in my placing my bottom on the ground. To begin with I was reluctant. I mean, frankly, I couldn’t see the sense in it. I had places to go, things to chew, I needed my bottom, it’s not as though I could leave it planted there whilst I got on with more important matters of the teeth. But she persuaded me – she and her honeyed words, her ear-petting, her CHEESE.
That’s how it starts. Rousseau called it the social contract. As a community, we form reciprocal bonds. They are two way bonds. Love forms the bond, doesn’t it? And things travel along the bond. Things like adoration, licking, empathy, trust, cheese.
You can imagine where this is going, but I didn’t see it. I trusted Nietzsche, who said that that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, so I took the cheese and placed the bottom. It was so easy at first. It was just a second, barely an infringement on the serious matters of teeth. And there was cheese. Many times. So many times.
But oh, of course, with the cheese came praise. Good boy, she cried, rubbing my ears. My ears. Oh my traitorous ears. Something about the ears and the cheese together. What can I say? A E Housman had it right – that is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain, The happy highways where I went and cannot come again….
Because then, oh so subtly, something changed. So it is with all aspects of life, all relationships, canine, human, political…. Soon what was once a thrill and a novelty becomes a norm. Soon what was once extraordinary and amazing becomes humdrum and everyday. Soon there is nothing astonishing about a dog who places his bottom where asked. Soon, it seems, a dog’s bottom seems to belong on the ground. The cheeseposts have been moved. From presenting cheese upon mere placement of the bottom, she began requiring the bottom to remain where it was, sometimes for seconds on end. Not only sit but wait. And stay. And sit and wait and stay.
For how long? For how long must I wait, here, my bottom glued, existentially useless? Seconds? More seconds? Minutes, even? Until I fall asleep? I wait like a prisoner. A cheese prisoner. Doesn’t she realised my bottom has a life to lead? Doesn’t she realise that a moment with it glued to the floor is a moment wasted?
I should have seen it coming. I should have refused to cooperate. After all, where will it end? One day all you have to do for cheese is sit, the next day you can’t have cheese unless you are parachuted into a safe seat and get yourself elected leader of the Conservative party. Soon even that isn’t enough and you need crowds, adulation, tanks, totalitarianism, a May Day Parade with ten thousand soldiers saluting as the cannons are fired in your honour.
It’s worse than that though, oh so much worse. Because even then you don’t get cheese… but by then you don’t care. You see somewhere along the line, somewhere in the midst of that good-boy-ear-tickling ecstasy, the cheese became unnecessary to the pleasure. My bottom now makes its own way to the ground the moment she says sit. My treacherous ears flap forwards waiting for her to rub them. Whereas once I was anyone’s for cheese, now I am anyone’s for an ear rub. My bottom is anyone’s for a simple word.
Cheese, it seems, is as fleeting in life as the morning mist, but the way it makes you behave lingers for ever. I wonder if this explains what happened to Boris Johnson. Maybe someone should give him cheese.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.