W. C. FIELDS WAS EXPRESSING an aversion for innocence when he said: “Anyone who hates children and animals can’t be all bad.” Fields unwittingly was touching upon the very reason that I like animals better than people: their inherent innocence. The company of a good dog or cat, in my experience, grows into a bond that is simply absent with most humans. Even watching a movie, one becomes inured to the violence between humans, of which there is often way too much, but don’t let anything happen to the dog!
Because I grew up without the company of animals, one of the side benefits of marrying my wife was that she is an animal person. I learned from her. Now, my sympathy for animals of all kinds knows no bounds. We had a neighbor in Utah who kept a bunch of dogs chained up all day; it was painful to see. He kept them for hunting season, when he went out looking for more innocent animals to kill.
Our king-sized bed often accommodates a couple of cats sleeping with us during the night. A few nights ago, I was awakened by one of them, Pipsqueak, licking my hand. This morning, once she saw that I was awake, Fancy climbed up on my chest, nose to nose, for a good morning greeting.
While animals possess mainly good qualities, we humans aren’t as pure. “Don’t overestimate,” said H. L. Mencken, “the decency of the human race.” There is a great novel about this theme: “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London. The protagonist is Buck, a big dog leading a leisurely life in California who is stolen and sold into Yukon slavery pulling a sled during the Gold Rush. There are some rough parts, where Buck learns about good and evil, but Buck triumphs. It is a superbly written novel, easy to read, and told essentially from the dog’s point of view. I doubt that W. C. Fields read it.
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