Tuesday, December 24, 2013


My little dog Tigger Ratbane, died on Wednesday.

He would have been 15 in February. He had several complicated medical problems, but what got him in the end was an unexpected and very fast growing tumour.

I said at the end of his life he was held together with love, and I meant it almost literally. The week before he died he was entertaining an elderly woman with dementia. He still liked to trot around the block and sniff and pee, and he was still mostly cheerful, but he was tired.

Today I miss him hugely. All the places we walked, and I would not have known about otherwise. Our daily routine, to which he was always faithful, right down to the little piece of cheese he got before he went to bed in his box. There are now many little spaces in my day, and some big ones.

Love is to our spiritual world as gravity is to the physical. It holds the planets in their courses. It binds us to the real earth, and lets us move in our destinies. I cannot say more about love. Language fails me here.

I can say something about how it is to love and be loved by someone from another species. This is remarkable, and yet it happens in households all over the world, and has done since the first brave children bonded with the first clever wolf puppies. What foresight. I still have no idea how we communicate across species - and yet I can still say that Tigger and I loved each other.

I have always been wary of anthropomorphism. I never liked being called 'Mummy' regarding the animals in my household, because I did not give birth to them. They are not children. They are not to be treated like human children, because that demeans them.

We demand contradictory things of animals. We want them to be like us, so we can relate to them and empathise with them. We say 'The chimpanzee is sitting like that because she is sad', or 'The sparrow is eating his tea'. Thus we ascribe human qualities to them. We also want them to be different from us, in several ways. Better than us, so we can aspire to qualities we think of as noble. We say, 'Animals would never be so cruel'. Lesser than us, so we can eat them or exploit them. We then other them - we say 'It's OK they don't feel things like we do'. All of these attitudes somehow exist concurrently, often within the same person. All of them might for all we know be incredibly wrong. Our relationship with animals is complex and more fraught than we think, and I suspect it is a new frontier in the area of civil rights and social inclusiveness.

It is this contradictory sameness and difference that backgrounds my wonder at how Tigger and I communicated. Maybe I am incredibly wrong, but I do feel he loved and was loved, and that love was his purpose. He came from love and he goes to love.

Now he is buried in our yard, wrapped in a linen shroud and facing Mecca. He had a kind of Muslim funeral; I chanted a prayer in Arabic for him. This was my idea of a theological joke. All animals are Muslims, as I have said in an earlier post. Islam means submission and animals, who do not have free will in Islam, thus submit naturally to the will of God. But in Islamic lore only one dog, the dog who guarded the Seven Sleepers goes to heaven. My joke is that Tigger gets to be the second dog.

Tigger Ratbane aka the Tiny Taco Terrier.
20.2.99 - 16.12.2013

Good Dog.

1 comment:

  1. He was also known, particularly by me - well, only by me really - as 'Dog.' 'Dog' is a very good and proper name for a dog.