Thank You, Tappy
St. Francis and Doctor Doolittle are right. We not only share this planet earth with each other but with a whole host of creatures, furry and slimy and winged, tamed and ferocious. I have little use and less time for anti-vivisectionists; but their window-smashing of butcher shops, deplorable as it is, gives wild-eyed testimony to a conviction to which the rest of us give only lip-service: that we have a responsibility for and toward all of the other beings on this ark of a planet.
Last October while we were getting sick on geese liver pate in France, the twins in our house were strategizing their campaign for a puppy. One of the senior members of our household was reluctant to take on the duties of feeding and house-breaking a little dog. This objector also worried about the restrictions a dog imposed on world travelers who didn't want to spend $19 a day to board a pet.
But as usual the twins prevailed. No sooner had our plane landed on the return trip to Logan Airport than we were headed for the Puppy Center to pick up a toy poodle. Tippy, by name (because he walked like a sailor recently home from a stormy cruise), lasted a week with us before we, at the vet's recommendation, returned her to the seller. Damaged goods, a persistent cough, and low vitality.
The twins were distraught. We researched the puppy books and decided on a bichon friese, poodle-like dogs made immortal in a Goya painting. A breeder with a couple of puppies for sale was found in a nearby town. We picked the female because she had the greater vitality and our experience with dogs (Bubbles, Cindy, and Sadie) favored females.
I then underwent bilateral knee surgery and was out of action for a couple of months. The feeding and toileting of the dog fell to grandma and her daughter. Tappy, as in Tapioca, her color, grew in stature if not always in wisdom. We have chosen not to clip her abundant hair, at least not until spring. It's cold in these parts. Besides, she is a wonderfully shaggy dog, ripe for a tale or two.
Yesterday Henry twin gathered Tappy into his arms, hugged her as she licked him, and announced: "She's the best dog!" That's up for debate, especially when she continues to resist our efforts to train her to do her business outside. Still two young men and one old one in our house are learning up front and personal that we share this world with other creatures and that most of them should be treated with tenderness and solicitude (whatever that means!).
In recent years, environmentalists have blamed the human desecration of earth on what they read as the license to lord it over the animals in Genesis 1:26: "Then God said, 'Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.'" Or piddles on the carpet. A straight line, ecological critics seem to suggest, connects this verse with, say, oil spills in Alaska.
But "dominion" doesn't mean despoil; it means be a responsible steward. It means to save not only the whales but the hyenas. It means, much to Bambi-lovers' anger, controlling the birthrate of deer, whether by extending the deer season or by some method of sterilizing does, for their own sake as well as for those who suffer from Lyme disease.
It ain't easy. We humans have a lot to learn. A few weeks ago, just as I was finishing reading (appropriately enough!) "The Life of Pi," I read a report in the newspaper about Willy. You know, the Willy of "Free Willy" fame. He had been freed from the prison of an aquarium for life in the Pacific Ocean. Only he was ill-equipped to fend for himself. He seemed to miss human beings. He turned up dead off Baja California. Willy could have used less sympathy more wisdom.
Tappy in the woods behind our house wouldn't last two days. A chicken hawk or a civet would eat her for lunch. Neither St. Francis nor Dr. Doolittle would appreciate such a lapse in our judgment. Let them eat rats, not bichon frieses.
Meanwhile the education in the connectedness of the creation continues for Henry, Robert, and Bobby.