Imbolc Valentine Moon
As you might imagine, dogs have been on my mind a lot this last week. Because we’ve had multiple dogs all of our marriage, and many of those were of the short-lived Irish Wolfhound breed, we’ve experienced the puppy hood and adult lives of 17 dogs. Each dog was unique, an individual in every sense. Each one of them, too, enriched our lives as companions, as fellow travelers on the ancientrail of life. At the same time, as I wrote a few weeks back, they also had (and have) their own lives, lived in the woods, wandering our property and following whatever doggy instincts and choices drive them.
Thinking about this, about the absolute value of each dog, a value not reducible to species, breed, position in our pack, or by our affections for them, I realized that their lives, though shorter than ours, had much in common with us. When our dogs die, that absolute value which existed during their lifetime lives on in our memories and perhaps the memories of friends and family. But, when we die and those who knew them die, their presence, their existence will die out, too.
This is the same notion as the second death which occurs for each of us when the last person who remembers us or has memory of us dies. The highest percentage of human beings, no matter their level of accomplishment or the meanness of their daily life, wink in and out of existence in the same way as our dogs. A percentage so small as to be negligible remains behind in history books, in their art, in noble works, in architecture or political achievement.
So, the dogs we have loved and with whom we have lived, are a microcosm of the human experience. Their existence matters and mattered, not because of something they did or did not do, but because they were and were in relationship with us and other members of the pack of their time. In my opinion this is a very positive view of both canine and human life. It is the living, the being alive and in relationship that matters most, not the degree or the wealth or the works.