It was a proud sack you carried. The biggest balls I’d ever seen on a dog, not that I’m a connoisseur of dog’s balls or anything. They were big balls for the spare size of your body; and they warped your behavior, those giant balls. They made you do things that you didn’t understand and we didn’t appreciate. They were a vestige of a wild life, a life you would never be able to live.
The wolf that was your forefather chose the easy path. Or was it the hard path? Symbiosis carries its own cost. Surrendering your individual wants and needs to the group, relying on the group to keep you alive just as you try to keep the group alive. Taking the food and shelter in exchange for the limitations on behavior, the ungentle hand of the master.
The warping of your bodies to fit the whims of the selector. No longer the natural selector that bred you to be the cunning pack hunters that you were. Now your genes serve the human guide, molding you to his wayward specifications and needs. Sometimes small and lean, sometimes large and menacing, always the protector and defender of the group. Your services paid for with blood and pain and the sacrifice of your own genetic path through time, now forged anew, melded with the genetic path of the human animal.
Was that a wise choice? Who can say. But the generations of sheep herders and drovers that molded your form to fit their specific criteria for what makes up a good dog could not have understood what it was they were doing to you other than bending you to their will and their desires. You stand there today not quite natural and not quite unnatural. A testament to the malleability of the genetic code that rules all our lives.
Like your absent tail that we would have let you keep, your absent balls represented a liability that we could not afford. The liability of the tail that was docked because generations of sheep herders docked the tails of new pups, tails being just one more liability that a working sheepdog could not afford, dwarfed in comparison by the liability of testosterone enhanced viciousness and territoriality. The urine smell of marks on household furniture. The vain pursuit of the breeding imperative, a cross that you would bear all your life if we left you whole and complete. The additional litters of puppies in a world already drowning in flawed dogs without loving homes, measured in balance with the whim of male vanity. The desire to see your pet be the embodiment of your own male virility.
(Look at those balls!)
To be able to measure both paths and weigh them in your own mind. To know both the life without fulfillment, dying one day in the future knowing that you have failed to produce the offspring that nature foolishly demands of you, even though the world doesn’t need more dogs right now. Knowing that life and also knowing the life of unbiased devotion to the pursuits that your form suits you to. That one pure devoted life versus the life of frustrated pursuits curtailed by the master forced to be harsh in the face of your intransigence. Your insistence on pursuits that you will never be allowed to fulfill. To be able to judge which life carries the most real satisfaction, for yourself. Which would you choose, given that choice?
Do not hate me, my faithful companion. I beg this of you. Like the sheep herder that set your forefathers on the course that led you to me, I simply do as I think best, never really knowing if what I think is best really is the best. Am I missing something, myself? Is there some part of me that was taken away by people who felt they knew best what my course in life should be?
I cast myself backwards in time with the inner eye of imagination. I see horsemen on the plains. Nomads that knew no roof other than the endless sky. Living day to day by the skill of their hands, shaping bows and arrows the way they shaped their dogs and horses. Even they had masters. Tribal leaders that corresponded almost directly in their own way with the leaders of your forefather’s wolf packs. The most capable. The most charismatic.
The last wild men in Europe. Taking what they wanted from sheepherder and farmer alike. Taking from town folk and their rulers when they dared stand against them. Taking and taking again until they are hemmed in, strapped down and civilized right along with the rest of the human race. That force of civilization then launching outward, suppressing native populations across the world, trammelling all the wild men with the curse (or blessing?) of civilized life.
Did we cut off our own balls when we civilized ourselves? Was it more manly to take what was wanted than to work and barter and pay for it? Who now living can say?
In that life I would last mere moments, even if I had been born to that life. Too many flaws. Too much of a burden. Much better is the life I have today, even with all its insufficiencies. It remains life, the most precious of gifts bestowed on the unthinking universe. To be allowed to admire its vast arching complexity. The universe knowing itself even if only in one small way. What will all those small ways add up to? I’m glad I have this life. I hope that you are glad to have your life, as limited as we have made it for you.
How would you tell me, if you could tell me? The kisses and butt shimmies that pass for tail wags for you make me believe you are happy, but are you really happy? Would you have preferred the short life but a merry one, the life that a teenage me almost embraced? Had a different door opened, I would have gone there and been long gone by now. In that last fleeting moment of consciousness would I have thanked the universe for my brief moment in the sun or cursed my bad genetic luck for saddling me with such a miserable existence?
I will never know. I have but this life, and you have but your own life. If you could speak would you grumble about how your absent balls still itch? Or would you have already moved on to the next contemplation? Where has that tennis ball gotten off to again? Can we go for a walk now? I hope that the latter is true.
Do not hate me, my faithful companion. I acted in what I thought was your best interest and my best interests together. The best plan that my flawed human consciousness could conjure up, with what little resources I have to offer to both you and I at this late date. Yes, let’s go take that walk now. It is the least I can do for you. We can find that wayward tennis ball when we get back.