Showing posts from November, 2018
In my last entry, I promised a quote from well-known psychologist and dog expert Stanley Coren, taken from his excellent book, The Consciousness of Dogs. I’m going to deliver on that promise, but first, what exactly is consciousness?
If you look in the Random House College Dictionary, you get this: “the state of being conscious; awareness. the thoughts and feelings, collectively, of an individual or of an aggregate of people. full activity of the mind and senses. awareness of something for what it is: consciousness of wrongdoing.”
Of these definitions, “awareness of something for what it is” strikes me as the key. To be possessed of consciousness, I have to know what I am, and I have to know what other things are that aren’t me. You don’t have consciousness unless you can make this distinction. I have read that children are only partially conscious until sometime around the age of five. At this point, they have fully lost their sense of the w…
In this instance, both name and dog are Just Bill, the title of my fable for adults about a rescued Lab. If you read the first blog entry, you’ve already heard from Bill. Because he’s a dog, it would not occur to him to speak ill of anyone, or to hold a grudge. 
True, it would not occur to him or any other dog to speak, period.  But if it did, and  he could, Bill wouldn’t bring up certain painful facts. That’s left to me, to describe how a dog devoted to his master is given up. How this happens and where it leads serves to dramatize the book’s theme—that lives are better, sometimes even saved through the relationship between a person and a dog. My own life is certainly better because I live with a dog, and I hope Just Bill makes the case for my point of view.
What’s in a dog? 
When I published Just Bill, I asked Dr. Stanley Coren for permission to quote a story from his landmark book, The Intelligence of Dogs. Here’s the letter I wrote to him:
My name is Bill, and I’m a four-year-old Lab mix. Of course I can’t talk or type, but I’m on good terms with my mister. He’s decided to speak for us both.
Why doesn’t he just speak for himself? No idea. After all, I’m a dog. But maybe speaking for both of us frees him in some way. Maybe imagining that I understand him helps him to think and type what’s on his mind.
Is he exploiting me? If it makes him happy, fine with me. He’s done a lot for me. I was born a mistake, at a puppy mill. I wasn’t supposed to even be, let alone grow up, but here I am. The breeder didn’t drown me with my littermates. He let me grow up, out of curiosity. Then, when I was nine months old, I escaped into the pine forest.
That’s when my mister came along. I was in the woods I don’t know how long, but one day I came out on the road, and followed the man who’s typing all this down. You could call it my leap-of-faith day, an act of intuition. I was sick with parasites, co…


If you're a dog lover, or as in my case a dog nut, you have probably experienced the grief that comes with a dog's death. Even when you know a dog's suffering has come to an end, it's not easy to be rational or common-sensical about it. You loved her or him, and that loved one is no more.

Some react by quickly filling the void with a new dog. The best way to fight loss is to head right now for the shelter or breeder, goes the argument. Others (that would be people like me) can't do such a thing. However much sense it makes, the idea of filling our need can't be so conveniently and quickly accomplished. It would be wrong, a utilitarian response to a deeply subjective state of mind and emotion. Grieving is for real, and quickly bringing home a new dog won't do. It would be like losing one's spouse to terminal-something, returning from the service, and sitting down at the computer to check out some online dating site.

That's why it took me three years …