The Mark of Cain

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Con Con was the first Spanish city in Chile, established by invaders at the mouth of the Aconcagua River to anchor and repair the conquistador warships.  Now it is a busy old summertime seaside resort; for the rest of the year it is a quiet fishing village surrounded by vacant vacation homes, and nearby high rise apartments, intent on being rediscovered as a new upscale resort suburb of Valpariso and Vina del Mar.
Since 1976 I have visited regularly and am always intrigued by the tripartite relationship among the resident populations: kept dogs, feral dogs and people; the interaction is complex and conceivably instructive.  To my disappointment, most of the feral canine community is likely to become obsolete given the intolerance and intrusiveness of our human driven world; dogs can be as annoying as everything else that interferes with our human pretensions, as hated as the unwanted pregnancy which is merely an unwanted life, or the weed which is merely an unwanted  flower. When the feral dog world of Con Con, which was, ironically, created and sustained by man, is gone, I will find it a sad loss. I particularly will miss the evening chorus of communal barking, as comforting but disorderly and unlovely noise of small children playing.  I find the canine chorus of alarm or excitement neither ugly, distressing, nor lasting; it speaks of fears, jealousies, shared longings, and intruders of any sex, size or order. I shall miss the small groups of morphologically and racially incoherent mongrels that live in packs of three or five in the streets and byways of the town; the  very early morning walk that discovers the small pack, each  sleeping animal curled up in its own carefully excavated hole in an area of dry sheltered sand; the focused, haughty, and solitary mutt on  mid morning rounds seeking leftovers along a well known trail of friendly kitchens, ignoring furious but lonely and confined  guard dogs who schizophrenically wag a droopy tail while abusing the human passerby; the horny coarse crowd of bastards pursuing a  tiny terrier or  200 pound great Dane variant in heat; the intense mongrel bent on some dark canine purpose, disdaining and apparently scorning pedestrians; the lone feral dog tossing sticks into the roiling surf or street for itself to retrieve.

What follows is a doggy philosophic commentary.  The Con Con resident might even recognize the canine voice of this particular dog.

La Canina

by Alberto Eduardo Goria

We dogs are, in a general way, divided into two similar sized groups, or as the sociologists sometimes say, subcultures: Los Libres (Libertarians), and Los Conservadores (Conservatives).  There is a small third group, about three %, who prefer to appear uncommitted, hopeful of becoming the object of greater attention, or to have it both ways. In the end, however, this tiny group, Los Independientes (Independents) adhere to the general behavior of one of the more dominant groups. Their independence is illusory, a pretense, a self conceit that means nothing. They are non participants in society until they take a stand, a position.

Libres like me believe that only liberty gives meaning to life. We live simply, even abstemiously, in order to remain free. We refuse to work for any master other than ourselves, even if it sometimes is clear that one must be a hard master to oneself, in order to survive.  We do accept food from people even though they may look on us with pity, considering us vagrants, the equivalent of bums. We often do actually look the part, consistent with our lifestyle: rough coated, unkempt un-brushed, dirty. Most people don’t care to associate with us closely though some are saddened by our condition and proffer kind words, or looks. But they don’t touch us much unless they are children; and we like it that way. We are wary and proud. There are no formal shelters or meals provided by charitable organizations in a small town like ours; but there are informal charitable folks, so we all regularly make the rounds of places where we find hand outs, left-over’s, or  what’s called garbage; like Street People in Buenos Aires, Santiago or New York.  As you can imagine, our life is demanding; we don’t have the luxury of frittering away our time socializing with humans, unless it seems likely we can con them into giving us some food. Then, for the moment, we are as amiable, endearing and charming as a house puppy. Otherwise we pay not the slightest attention to passersby. What for?

The Conservadores exchange their liberty for food and shelter.  They are property, and are kept shut up in yards or homes. Even so, many feel the relationship between owner and owned can be more than that of slave and master; more than an exchange of this for that. It can be an enduring, close and loving interdependence. Some Roman or Old South USA, or Brazilian slaves thought the same way.  On the other hand one sort of  kept dog can hardly deny they are slaves, like the guard dogs who stay caged in a yard alone when their masters go… where? Who knows? They are abused, and yet, act insanely happy when their masters return.  Maybe that’s because all of us are social animals. It is vitally important to us to be a part of a group. The Conservadores live like and with humans.  They act, and may believe, they are human. Who knows?  And indeed, the majority of kept dogs are not actually slaves, or abused in the usual sense of the word, and often seem happy, if ignorant of true freedom.  Maybe they are right.

We libertarians are not hermits of course; we too are social beings like all dogs.  The difference is that while kept dogs live in a human group, we libertarians live together in dog packs.   It is as though Libs are pack animals who live in the streets and the alleys while Cons are faux people who live with people in homes. Cons depend on work to live; Libs avoid work to be free, but depend on a group of our own kind to survive.

We are both, Libs and Cons, completely social animals. Our shared social imperatives are: Song, and Sex. That is the main reason we never have any interest in organized warfare. No evening or night passes without a choral session; we are like our relatives, coyotes or wolves. We sing for pure joy, to lift our spirits in the face of danger, before going to sleep, and often for no reason at all. The shared call to song and sex for all dogs is so strong that even Conservatives can’t entirely resist it. Their masters have to force them to abstain.  Whenever possible, both Cons and Libs often join together to sing because music wells up from the innermost recess of our nature. And whenever kept dogs can possibly do so they find unlimited joy in sex as well; when they sense the scent they will do anything to join in to obey the call. It is only in these things that we are without rancor. Where sex is concerned, or food for that matter, we are almost human: its dog eat dog. Unless, of course, we are full, or castrated like many kept dogs. A purely human evil, castration; I understand they even do it to themselves in various ways. I don’t even want to think about it.

There are, of course, unwelcome aspects of a dog’s life.  Libs have no health care, and are often affected by parasites, fleas, or illness like distemper.  When we die, we are left to rot or taken to a dump. Cons not only have health care but sometimes have transplants or dialysis.  When a con dies he might have a funeral or a tomb, like a shrine. Lib’s lives are short, if sweet.  But cons are almost always abused by education. They are bowel abused, or ‘house trained’.  Can you imagine ‘holding it’ until nature’s demands are approved by a master!  Cons are voice or sign- command abused.  Libs still know from birth that every sidewalk and lawn are the proper place to deposit stool, and every corner, weed or tree is placed  there by doG for our urine marker and sexual scent, and every single impulse is a sacred command that must be followed.   Actually, even kept dogs can’t resist greeting one another with a nose in the behind.   To nose a butt is simply irresistible to us all.

I don’t object or reject the world as it is today for us dogs.  To each his own. What really concerns me is that it appears that humanity is as abusive of the nature dogs as they are of any other natural life or natural thing that infringes on their own nature. Of course they will soon get rid of Libs for one reason or another. We will be declared dangerous or a health menace; our spoor unwelcome to tourists, whatever, when we become an inconvenience. It is clearly human nature to be intolerant, arrogant, abusive and destructive of everyone and everything that gets in the way, even their own kind; like Cain and Abel. That’s why they War so much.  Some created doG in their own image no less.  Imagine!  Some think it’s integral to human nature, inborn, a stain that’s there even when invisible.  If so, I fear there is no future for the world. Nor even the universe.  And that would be a doG-damned shame.

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