Gary is used to me. He said nothing and continued to walk.
â€œI mean his insistence that animals are machines,â€ I explained. â€œThat they have no souls. Which means presumably no personalities. But look at our dogs! Both of us can describe their personalities so clearly and accuratelyÂ that the other agrees. Fergus…â€
And we could either or both of us tell you that Fergus, a malamute/ red-and-white setter mix, is gentle, dignified, a bit insecure, loyal, silently devoted rather than emotive, and that life often confuses and perplexes him. He is a very handsome dog, with almost human-looking eyes. At nearly 12 Fergus is now our senior dog, but he is not a dominant personality. He is a born second banana. Gilly, who died in April, had the upper hand–or paw–all their many years together, and when she died, Fergus was not emotionally equipped to step up.
Instead the dog who stepped up–but not so completely as Gilly–has been Cassie, who is part Pomeranian and part rat terrier. Gilly had been part Jack Russell terrier and part sheltie, and there is no doubt in my mind, then or now, that terriers would rule the world if they had opposable thumbs and could enunciate more clearly. But Cassie can express a number of sentiments even without lips and the proper sort of palate for speech–rat terriers are described in one dog book as â€œvociferousâ€ and that is Cassie to a T. She mutters, mumbles and swears–or expresses approval in little rumbling sounds that are next door to purrs. Cassie also barks, yips, growls and grunts, and she uses her ears, which can stand high on her head like a foxâ€™s or be folded down against her face, or half-way in between,Â to communicate further thoughts and emotions. Cassie is very friendly to other dogs, but she really loves people–Gary most of all. She is a tremendously cute dog–little girls adore her, and she adores them. Although she is gentler than Gilly, and weighs only 18 pounds, no one gets her food away from her–she keeps her head down and growls at all comers. But she does not insist on standing her ground. If she is on the couch or the bed, she will just jump down and stalk off when Liza invades her space.
Which Liza does a lot. Liza is neither quiet and dignified and yearningly silent like Fergus nor as calm and confident as Cassie. She is young, for one thing, and very silly–she is always falling off the bed, or rounding a corner at the dog park so sharply that she has to leap over a dog she had not seen, which is comical in the extreme to watch. However because she is so athletic it is also a thrill to see her leaping as swiftly and gracefully as a gazelle. She is eager, even ardent, and she can be pushy. If affection or treats are being doled out, Lizaâ€™s head is right in there. But she is not aggressive, and she has eyes of surpassing sweetness. And unlike Cassie, who has actually apparently had a litter but has no interest in toys of any kind, Liza, who has not had puppies, has great mother instincts. We discovered this when, in an attempt to keep her from eating all our shoes, Gary bought her a green rubber chameleon that squeaks and uncurls its coiled red tongue and a green tail when you squeeze it. We thought she would demolish it. Instead, it became her baby. She carries it everywhere with her, as softly as if it were a puppy. She has never taken the smallest bite out of it. We never hear it squeaking because she handles it with such gentle care. To look into her soft eyes when she is with her chameleon–we actually call it her gecko because itâ€™s funnier–is to look into the eyes of love.
Of course RenÃ© Descartes was not an idiot. But he thought he could reason his way to the truth without relying on external experience–â€œI think, therefore I amâ€ was his famous starting point. But sometimes you just have to look at the world the way it is and ask yourself if the God who made every starfish, every snowflake, every fingerprint different would not manifest in every creature that lives some touch of that uniqueness we call â€œpersonality.â€ God values our individuality. Descartes didnâ€™t want to rob humans of their supreme uniqueness–but in so doing, he took away that of other creatures. But just look at Lizaâ€™s face with her gecko and tell me that is the face of a machine–that she doesnâ€™t have a soul!