A canine crutch

Galahad sat at the top of the stairs looking glum, his master has returned to sea and is currently somewhere off of the north coast of Scotland.

Simple things make Galahad happy, sitting in the front of the car and watching the world pass by. Sitting on a stool at the bar of the King’s Head inn listening to the conversations.

‘Cheer up, Sir Galahad,’ I said as I passed him. There was a slight wag of the tail.

I would not think of addressing him as anything other than ‘Sir Galahad.’ It is Arthurian country here, one has to be careful to show respect to tradition.

Arthur, Galahad’s monarch, died tragically five years ago. A road traffic accident ending the life of one that evoked the days of legends.

Arthur’s place was taken by Guinevere, a dog less depressive than Galahad, a dog who will use Galahad’s withdrawal from company as an opportunity to eat his dinner.

Proper respect demands that she be addressed as ‘Lady Guinevere,’ although she is probably less a stickler for protocol than her companion. Her assertiveness means barking loudly at any canine stranger which means she is excluded from the King’s Head. It is hard to imagine she would be troubled as to how she might be addressed, as long as her tin dish is regularly filled with food. Should there be any delay in the provision of food, she will pick up the dish and drop it to draw the attention of those who serve her to the fact that they have been tardy with the Pedigree petfood.

Someone once told me that people kept dogs as ‘an emotional crutch.’

It was a comment that was undoubtedly correct, indeed they are. My conversations with my sister’s dogs are those of a person who leads a solitary life for most of the year.

And if dogs are an emotional crutch, then don’t most human relationships fall into such a category? Don’t people look to others for validation, affirmation, purpose?  Don’t children and grandchildren become a shield against the meaninglessness of life that people might fear? Don’t most human relationships derive from a refusal to accept existential realities? People live their lives vicariously, afraid to be themselves for fear of having to step out from the lives they have created.

The passing years have taught that a conversation with a dog is something more useful than many conversations with humans. Dogs show unconditional love. Dogs are not capricious. Dogs understand graciousness and bear no grudges. Dogs do not believe themselves infallible, do not pretend to have views that are normative. Dogs do not cause you hurt.

All in all, it is not hard to see why a dog has been called a man’s best friend. It is certainly a far better friend than most people.



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