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Calvin speaks: So many of you like to guess what dogs are thinking as we sit pensively beside you that I have decided to play turnabout, and guess what you must be thinking. How can a dog, humble in nature, a mixed breed of uncertain heritage, adopted from the Humane Society, who has experienced the world mostly through the front window of a home in Atlanta -- how can such a dog offer a philosophy of life that might have universal applications? Surely this must be what you're wondering. And my, you're so cute as you ponder it!

But that's just what I've done in a little book of ruminations by yours truly and illustrations by Jim Kelley named, Unleashed, The Wit and Wisdom fo Calvin the Dog. My human translator is Chris Glaser.


Unleashed book by Chris Glaser

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I pontificate on everything from collars to the kindness of strangers, from evolution to the edible complex. Sniff out some of the treats buried in the book:


Recently a scientific report claimed "definitively" that we dogs are descended from wolves. Now I'm quite willing to believe that humans evolved from apes, because they act like apes much of the time (I've been outside a singles bar), but I refuse to believe that I evolved from such a wild creature as a wolf - I'm much too refined for that. Rather, I believe that I and other dogs were created by God and made in God's image. We are God's mirror reflection.

That's why God backwards spells dog. Isn't that one of the things you English-speaking humans notice, the spelling thing? And who else but God loves as unconditionally as a dog? We don't care who you humans are or what you humans do, as long as you take some time to be with us, praise us, worship us, and do our bidding occasionally. Isn't that godlike? Even when you treat us badly or forget we're around, the minute you turn about and give us the attention we deserve, we lick your faces and give you comfort. Isn't that divine?


I love going to church. I enjoy exploring the cavernous building filled with so many rooms, slipping on the shiny tiles, and I take pleasure running around outside in the yards surrounding the church, sniffing the scents of so many other animals. But I do not sense why it's something my humans want to do, for they are made to sit and stay in but one room of the building on hard sofas for an hour or more while one person barks, allowed occasionally to stand and bay together at the yowl caused by someone scratching the teeth of a box. The best part of that time is when they walk around and pet each other, passing the treat of God. Their only other reward for being good through all this is hot muddy water and occasionally, treats.
How can they feel wonder at God when they are kept in a box like this? They can't even look out the opaque windows of the church to view the graceful old trees and lawns around it. Surely they'd feel more gratitude toward God if they were outside in natural beauty! Certainly running and leaping and playing would fill them with greater ecstasy than being told to "sit" or "stand." Just feeling free to explore other God-boxes would be more exciting! I still like going to church, just for the different reasons than my humans.

Leashes are embarrassing. When I'm put on my leash it means I can't be trusted to behave, to be safe, to be good. I lose my sense of independence and personal responsibility. I lose my freedom. It was a long while before I sensed that a leash was also embarrassing for my humans. They, too, feel humiliation as I tug on the leash, resisting them. They would prefer for me to behave, to be safe, to be good. They enjoy our walks most when there's mutual freedom.

They no more want to be on the end of a leash than I do! They are my lead dogs; that is, they are the ones whom I look to for guidance about when we're resting, when we're eating. They let me be the "lead dog" when I suggest it's time to play by dropping a ball in front of them, or coax them to be affectionate by nudging one of their hands with my nose onto my head for a pat and scratch, or remind them by my example how good it is just to "veg out" on the sofa. Seems to me this is a good way to live. Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in a world without leashes, in which every creature behaved, where we took turns being lead dogs and no one was humiliated by being at either end of a leash? One of the things my humans learned about leashes in our training classes was not to pull against resistance--because we dogs (and most creatures) will not be persuaded by that method. Better to regain my attentiveness to follow their lead than for them to force their control. This suggests to me something about the nature of God and those who represent God. God is the supreme Lead Dog, who persuades rather than coerces. And those who represent God best follow that lead by shepherding rather than bulldogging others. If dogma were true to its origin in the word dog, it would include this lesson learned from dogs: that none of us is to pull against resistance by forcing our beliefs or our spiritual path on others. Instead, being dogmatic has simply become another form of leashing and muzzling. (By the way, I don't find those bumper stickers that read "MY KARMA JUST RAN OVER YOUR DOGMA" the least bit funny.)

Copyright © 1998 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved.