Babies And Dogs
It has been said that dm:. ale th:.. only animals that habitually prelet the company ol human beings to that ol their )an species_ It is an interesting suggestion, with, at air rq1... enough truth in it io start a fruitful train of thought should you happen to be enquiring into the curiously difficult problem of the origin of he domeshcation of animals.
But it is not quoted here in that ;onr=tion. It bears also on another metier, the dog-worship which was the subject of a Note on this page last week (no doubt at great riek, for there caa be eew occasions when leaders of a newspaper more freely write threatening to stop their subscriptions than when they have seen ,rt it some simple truths concerning the proper limits to the cult of animals).
The suggestion supplements what :)as been said a thousand times about the " independence " of the cat considered es a domestic pet. One is always being told that the dog, unlike the cat, truckles to us human beings and fawns on us end. even positively enjoys cur company at times. But to he told that it habitually likes us more than it likes its fellow dogs well. it is always nice to be liked more than those who have greater claims upon our admirer's affections! No wonder that many, unconecioliely responding to this preference. laeish on their does more affection than they feel for any fellow human!
One of the most entirety lovely things Ill nature is a little child cuddling up into the arms of a parent as into a sale nest, and perhaps dropping off to sleep. utterly trustful and sure ot watchful care thoogh beyond all may be dark or strange or fearsome. Lovely also is his unquestioning obedience (when he is not being disobedient!) and. as he grows old enough to understand it, his sweet acceptence of the reason why.
To respond to this absolute trust is an instinctive and delightful act. Its appeal would be irresistible to any normal perion even if it were not made with the enchanttog little gropings and fumblings oh' unfolding faculties and growing limbs. No one need be ashamed of surrendering to it. Happy are mothers, for they cae count on such trust, Happy is the man who has won it.
Freudian psychologists have, of coursa, tried to befoul this relationship, with everything else pure and beautiful. And there are others, less unwholesome. but not less glih, who try to express the response to the little child's appeal in terms of self-love. They say that it is merely self-gratification that is sought when the grown-up plays Providence to the child, or evokes affection, trust or obedience, It is true, of course, that self-gratification can be. and often is, sought in this way—all too often by the parents themselves. Many fuss excessively over the child. Many others artificially excite his affection, or play upon his dependence, or indulge. out of vanity. their power to moie him to fear or obeuienee or smiles.
But these things, however common, are not part of the natural relationship between grown-ups and children, but are offences against it, and against the child. The perfectly natural relationship would be altogether free front them. It would he free even from what seems almost inseparable from it in a fallen world, the conceit that enters into the heart of a man when a child. unbribed, has made friends with him. when a little thing too young to pretend runs up to him gleefully on catching sight of him or turns to him for comfort when afraid. There would then be left only what we started with—one of the hest things in nature, lovely to contemplate. and, a legitimate delight to all who are privileged to experience it.
" Legitimate." because what is delightful is not necessarily a sin! It may even be a duty, arid is so in the present case. For the child really needs the grown-up. His instinct to trust and to obey and to cling is rooted in a certain real incompleteness in him. He is not a fully formed human being.. He lacks both the knowledge and the powers essential to independent human life in the world; and in his ignorance and weakness he trusts and obeys, and in his simplicity he loves.
Something of the sort is true of grownups themselves in their relations with their fellow men, for "man is a social animal.," It is altogether true of all of us in our relation to Godes It is altogether true of the little child in his relation with even the least of LIS who happens to meet that need at the moment; and it is a duty to respond and, with all humility and reverence. to be to the little one all the wonderful things that he sees in us.
There are some who feel the same about dogs. -All that has been said here about duty, or in rebuttal of the charge of selfgratification. they would apply to their relationship with their petswho trust and need them.
And why not? Well, there arc several most cogent reasons, but it is a case in