Gopnik on Dogs

Adam Gopnik’s piece “Dog Story” in the New Yorker for 11 August (available online only for subscribers I think) is full of nuggets, observations, and pointers to good books including Derr’s forthcoming one which should be essential. Meanwhile there are good “detachable quotes”:

“She does a better impersonation of a person than we do as an approximation of a dog… Dogs have little imagination about us and our inner lives but limitless intuition about them; we have false intuitions about their inner lives but limitless imagination about them. Our relationship meets in the middle”.

“…After all, where we are creatures of past and future, she lives in the minute’s joy: a little wolf, racing and snorting and scaring; and the small ingratiating spirit, doing anything to please. At times, I think that I can see her turn her head and look back at the ghost of the wolf mother that she parted from long a go, saying, ‘See, it was a good bet after all; they’re nice to me, mostly.’ Then she waits by the door for the next member of the circle she has insinuated herself into to come back to the hearth and seal the basic social contract common to all things that breathe and feel and gaze: love given for promises kept. How does anyone live without a dog? I can’t imagine.”

5 thoughts on “Gopnik on Dogs”


    "Derr isn’t just a dog fancier, one realizes, but a kind of dog nationalist, a dog jingoist. He believes that what was an alliance of equals has, in very recent centuries, been debased to produce Stepin Fetchit dogs, like Butterscotch, conscripted into cuteness. Dogs began as allies, not pets, and friends, not dependents."

    I find such dogs annoying. Even now, our Zora, who is fourteen and a half with heart disease, and had some kind of crisis on Wednesday that almost killed her, does not whinge and moan and wiggle for attention. She demands it when it suits her, and dismisses me when she has had enough of petting and talking.

  2. I obviously agree, and look forward to Derr. Though I'll cut Gopnik, an urbanite who came late and reluctantly to dogs through his daughter and who is now a partisan, a bit of slack– good instincts, graceful writing.

  3. I enjoyed Gopnik's "Paris to the Moon" which gives lots of good insights into French culture and attitudes. Certainly helped explain some of our French sister-in-laws strange behavior

  4. I so completely imprinted on dogs as a toddler, and they have been such an important constant in my life(in a way humans have not), I too, cannot imagine life without them! In fact, I have developed a deep-seated prejudice towards humans that dislike dogs and don't want to keep them. I do try to make exceptions for those unfortunates who are allergic, etc.; but I have found people that hate dogs to be the most selfish, untrustworthy, and with the most sorry temperments among humankind–did I mention I was prejudiced in this way??…And Jess, what you are speaking of is Sighthound temperment, which is VERY like wolf temperment–where the relationship must be very much more of a partnership than master/servant, which, alas, too many modern people have come to believe is what the dog/human relationship should be. And any dog(or wolf!) that doesn't submit to our bizarre whims and moods and commands MUST have a "bad" temperment deserving of euthanasia! When the truth is, even cringingly subserviant retriever/spaniel types appreciate being treated more as partners than as slaves….L.B.


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