I have spotted a pattern in the Owner’s behaviour. An hour or so after we enter the Park, we leave it. Aside from the fact that this is completely illogical (why enter the park, if you intend to leave it?) the Moral Dog is not consulted on the matter of going home. The glorious partnership of Owner and Moral Dog, a partnership based on autonomy and reason is cast aside as the Owner marches unilaterally out of the park gate, actually towing the Autonomous Moral Dog behind her.
It is clear that I should be consulted. There are squirrels to chase, ducks to look down upon and a whole array of dogs with whom to exchange Philosophical Ideas. This is a vast and glorious world of possibilities. That the Owner should wish to curtail it in its metaphorical infancy in such a totalitarian manner seems to me an act without conscience. Nevertheless, an hour or so after we enter the Park we always leave it. The tower towing the towed.
Today I take an autonomous decision. When the owner reaches the corner at which she habitually turns for home I decide autonomously to go the other way, joining Lucifer with the nose cage for an excellent game of chase. The Owner shouts and shouts, but there is really no need, I know where she is. She can go home if she wants to. I know where it is too.
Eventually, perhaps remembering her commitment to the whole autonomy and reason thing, perhaps even feeling guilty at her earlier, unilateral, home-orientated decision, she stops shouting and comes to join us. Smiling. Like Brutus on the Ides of March, as it turns out. Lucifer and I welcome her happily, me with warm and friendly esteem, Lucifer salivating in his nose cage.
I imagine her motives to be pure but no, it seems deception is the order of the day, she has taken advantage of my Moral Nature because… both Lucifer and I find ourselves, suddenly, on the lead (or, in Lucifer’s case, the chain). Let me say that again in case the indignity is unclear. We find ourselves On the Lead Whilst Still In The Park.
Thus did great Caesar fall, at the hands of those most trusted. Et tu Brute? I say, as she slips it round my neck.
She says this is what happens when you cross the Rubicon.
It seems to me that comparing my very minor detour with Caesar marching the 13th Legion on Rome is stretching it a bit. Where is our Kantian partnership of Moral Beings now? Where is all that talk about John Stuart Mill who would not limit liberty unless for our own safety or the safety of others?
We head home, I in stunned silence, she tutting and muttering like faulty plumbing. To make things worse I hear the words ‘naughty’ and ‘dog’ used in the same breath. It is a Moral Outrage, I tell her, when I feel ready to express my shock. John Stuart Mill would not have any of it.
The Owner says there are times when John Stuart Mill simply does not apply, and I must sacrifice my Naughty Instincts for the collective good.
I say they are not Naughty Instincts but Autonomous Choices. I say I don’t see why they have to be sacrificed when I can come home by myself later. I tell her Houdini with the floppy ears told me he went off by himself for three days last week, and even got given a lift home from a nice lady in a dog van who gave him treats and read his microchip to check his address. I have a microchip too. All she has to do is give me a key.
She says I am not having a key, nor am I coming home by myself. She says Houdini is a prime example of why Owners should not name their dogs Houdini. She says she and I go for a walk together, and we come back together. Some things are not a matter of individual autonomy, they are necessary for the common good, which is a principle of Confucian philosophy built on the mutual dependence between the flourishing of the individual and the flourishing of the group.
I say Confucius sounds rather Marxist to me. I remind her of Orwell’s Animal Farm, in which whilst all were equal some are more equal than others, but she says Marx believed in a classless society based on the underlying principle of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.’ As the Owner, she says, she has the ability to know when it is Time to Go Home. As the Moral Dog, I then need to go home.
I say this is not an ability but a power grab. I ask who gets to decide what the common good is.
She says obviously it’s her.
I ask why this is obvious.
She says because she provides the food and the bed and the soft squidgy cushion and Squeaky Cat and even… (there is a pregnant pause for effect)… the cheese. Tomorrow, she then says as the word cheese still echoes deliciously on the morning air, the truly Moral Dog will not run off when he reaches the corner, as then he would not be Moral.
I say Marx would not have oppressed the Moral Dog like this, and she is frankly sounding rather more like Stalin than a comrade in the proletariat.
She says this is not oppression, it’s common sense and would I like to be a Good Dog and have this cheese and are we agreed?
I take the cheese, the cheese of oppression. But I take it not because I am prepared to be oppressed, but because I am not. I have a cunning plan, a plan as cunning as a fox who’s just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University. It combines the revolutionary zealousness of Marx with the cunning of Baldric and the imagination of Superdog.
Tomorrow I will not run off when we reach the corner. Tomorrow I will run off as soon as the corner is in sight. Or even earlier, just to be sure. I may even run off as soon as we arrive at the Park. For complete avoidance of misunderstanding.
I tell my trusty sidekick Fluffy, but he says he doesn’t want any trouble and he’s staying in the coffee shop, so it’s going to be just me, Lucifer and Houdini. Come the revolution! What can possibly go wrong?
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.