DOGS >> Personal Affection
/Opposite Sense >> Those who are in Corporeal Pleasures
The dogs of Oriental towns are so unlike their more fortunate European relatives, that they can hardly be recognized as belonging to the same species. In those lands the traveler finds that there is none of the wonderful variety which so distinguishes the dog of Europe. . . . As he traverses the streets, he finds that all the dogs are alike, and that all are gaunt, hungry, half starved, savage, and cowardly, more like wolves than dogs, and quite as ready as wolves to attack when they fancy they can do so with safety. They prowl about the streets in great numbers, living, as they best can, on any scraps of food that they may happen to find. They have no particular masters, and no particular homes. Charitable persons will sometimes feed them, but will never make companions of them, feeling that the very contact of a dog would be a pollution. They are certainly useful animals, because they act as scavengers, and will eat almost any animal substance that comes in their way. (Bible Animals)
The author of “A Month in Constantinople” thus describes his first night:
The whole city rang with one vast riot. Down below me, at Tophané—over about Stamboul—far away at Scutari—the whole sixty thousand dogs that are said to overrun Constantinople appeared engaged in the most active extermination of each other, without a moment’s cessation. The yelping, howling, barking, growling, and snarling were all merged into one uniform and continuous even sound, as the noise of frogs becomes when heard at a distance. For hours there was no lull. I went to sleep, and woke again, and still, with my windows open, I heard the same tumult going on; nor was it until daybreak that anything like tranquility was restored.
Yet several writers agree that these savage curs are still dogs in that essential characteristic—the desire to attach themselves to a master. Mr. Tristram encamped, with his party, outside the walls of Jerusalem, near a Turkish guard house. He writes:
So near the soldiers, we could sleep in security, and had no occasion to be on the watch against pilferers during the daytime. Indeed, the guard house provided us unasked with an invaluable and vigilant sentry, who was never relieved, nor ever quitted the post of duty. The poor Turkish conscript, like every other soldier in the world, is fond of pets, and in front of the grim turret that served for a guard house was a collection of old orange boxes and crates, thickly peopled by a garrison of dogs of low degree, whose attachment to the spot was certainly not purchased by the loaves and fishes which fell to their lot. One of the party must indeed have had hard times, for she had a family of no less than five dependent on her exertions and on the superfluities of the sentries’ mess. With a sagacity almost more than canine, the poor gaunt creature had scarcely seen our tents pitched before she came over with all her litter, and deposited them in front of our tent.
At once she scanned the features of every member of our encampment, and introduced herself to our notice. During the week of our stay, she never quitted her post, nor attempted any depredations on the kitchen tent, which might have led to her banishment. Night and day she proved a faithful and vigilant sentry, permitting no stranger, human or canine, European or Oriental, to approach the tents without permission, but keeping on the most familiar terms with ourselves and our servants. On the morning of our departure, no sooner had she seen our camp struck than she conveyed her puppies back to their old quarters in the orange box, and no entreaties or bribes could induce her to accompany us. On three subsequent visits to Jerusalem, this same dog acted in a similar way, though no longer embarrassed by family cares, and would on no account permit any strange dog, nor even
her companions at the guard house, to approach within the tent ropes. (Land of Israel p. 175, 176)
It would be easy to fill volumes with anecdotes of the traits of dogs. There are innumerable accounts of the zeal and sagacity of Newfoundland dogs in rescuing lives from the water; of a similar instinct in the dogs of St. Bernard for finding and protecting travelers lost in the snow; of the peculiar ability and faithfulness displayed by shepherd dogs in guiding and protecting the sheep; of drovers’ dogs which will conduct their flock or herd long distances alone, and will even drive them through other flocks or herds without allowing an individual to stray, or a single stranger to mingle with their own;1 and not a few instances are recorded of dogs whose attachment to their masters was so great that when these died, the dogs also refused the means of life. It is superfluous to describe at great length qualities that are so well known to all; it only remains for us to generalize them, and point out the essential characteristics in them all.
Mr. Wood’s observations on this point are of interest. He says:
The leading characteristic of a dog’s nature is that he must have a master, or at all events a mistress; and just in proportion as he is free from human control, does he become less dog-like and more wolf-like. In fact, familiar intercourse with mankind is an essential part of a dog’s true character, and the animal seems to be so well aware of this fact, that he will always contrive to find a master of some sort, and will endure a life of cruel treatment at the hands of a brutal owner rather than have no master at all. (Bible Animals)
Hamerton, also, with some facetiousness and extravagance, but with very clear insight into natural character, says:
Thousands of dogs, whole generations of them, have known man in no other character than that of a merciless commander, punishing the slightest error without pity, yet bestowing no reward.
There are countries where the dogs are never fed, where they are left to pick up a bare existence amongst the vilest refuge, and where they walk like gaunt images of famine, living skeletons, gnawing dry sticks in the wintry moonlight, doing Nature’s scavenger work like rats. Yet in every one of these miserable creatures beats the noble canine heart—that heart whose depths of devotion have never yet been sounded to the bottom; that heart which forgets all our cruelty, but not the smallest evidence of our kindness. If these poor animals had not been made to love us, what excellent reasons they would have had for hating us! Their love has not been developed by care and culture, like the nourishing ears of wheat; but it rises like warm, natural springs, where man has done nothing either to obtain them or to deserve them. . . .
We know ourselves to be such lamentably imperfect characters, that we long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment. Women love in us their own exalted ideals, and to live up to the ideal standard is sometimes rather more than we are altogether able to manage; children in their teens find out how clumsy and ignorant we are, and do not quite unreservedly respect us; but our dogs adore us without a suspicion of our shortcomings. (Chapters on Animals)
It is said that every dog is an aristocrat, because rich men’s dogs cannot endure beggars and their rags, and are civil only to well-dressed visitors. But the truth is that, from sympathy for his master, the dog always sees humanity very much from his master’s point of view. The poor man’s dog does not dislike the poor. I may go much farther than this, and venture to assert that a dog who has lived with you for years will make the same distinction between your visitors that you make yourself inwardly, notwithstanding the apparent uniformity of your outward politeness. My dog is very civil to people I like, but he is savage to those I dislike, whatever the tailor may have done to lend them external charms. (Ibid.)
Whatever we may think of the nobleness of the character thus described, there is no doubting the truth that the dog is an embodiment of personal affection, undiscriminating, devoted. There is, indeed, a difference in the quality of dogs; some of them learn good things easily, and are reluctant to do harm; and others can with difficulty be restrained from cruelty. But where they attach themselves they worship good and evil indifferently; and all love wanton uncleanness. The affection of which they are representatives loves the faults with the virtues, often with a special fondness for selfish peculiarities of thought and temper. It is an affection which makes one complacent with himself as he is, but is not at all encouraging to improvement.
In the Scriptures dogs are usually spoken of as vile; but in their best sense are used as representatives of kindly, natural affection, which is indiscriminate because ignorant of truth, yet sometimes is desirous of instruction. The dogs that licked the sores of Lazarus, lying at the rich man’s gate, have such a meaning. Swedenborg interprets the rich man as meaning the learned among the Jews, who were rich in knowledge of the Word; the poor man, as the simple among them who looked up to the learned for instruction, as Lazarus desired to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table; and the dogs doing their best in their poor way to help him, as those out of the church who had more kindliness than those within it, though they did not know good from evil.
Also when the Syrophenician woman besought the Lord to cast out the devil from her daughter, He replied, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to dogs”; to which she answered, in her humility, “Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (Matthew 15), thus turning the representative to its good sense, by acknowledging that they were in evil, but expressing a desire to be helped and instructed. Likewise, in a sense not bad, Swedenborg says that dogs signify “the lowest in the Church, who prate much of such things as are of the Church, but understand little” (Arcana Coelestia #7784); in which sense it seems to be used in the passage, “That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same” (Psalm 68:24). Such persons may be very faithful to the things they have been taught, very ( Arcana Coelestia #9231. See also Apocalypse Explained #455. ) watchful and suspicious of everything that does not exactly agree with it, even of familiar things dressed in different clothes.1 Ignoble dogs, because of their greediness and quarrelsomeness, and their unclean and wanton ways, represent those whose personal attachment is simply for the sake of indulgence of appetite and for sensual enjoyment. Of these Swedenborg says:
By dogs in general are signified those who are in all kinds of lusts and indulge them, particularly they who are in pleasures merely corporeal, especially the pleasures of eating and drinking, in which alone they take delight. (Apocalypse Revealed #952)
In this sense it is said, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs”; for holy things ought not to be used for self-indulgence. And in the Revelation we read, in the same meaning, “Without are dogs and sorcerers and whoremongers” (Revelation 22:15). From such appetites readily springs the desire to destroy the purer truth which restrains them; and such desire is meant by dogs in the passage, “They compassed me about like dogs; deliver my darling from the power of the dog” (Psalm 22:17, 21). ( That there are good dogs, see Spiritual Diary #4853.)
Author: JOHN WORCESTER 1875