"Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war...."
-- Julius Caesar

"Life...is a tale...full of sound and fury...."
-- Macbeth

"No woman can be too rich or too thin."
-- Wallis Simpson

"Let them eat cake."
-- Somebody, but not Marie Antoinette

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Religion and Animals, My Response

I, Poppy, have never been observed praying and do not have a favorite hymn -- not even "All Things Bright and Beautiful." I am a "Saint Francis Day" Christian. I attend church for the blessing of the animals, and then I really don't enjoy being doused with holy water. It reminds me of getting a bath, an activity to which I am opposed. I have also enjoyed a sort of 21st century religious upbringing, the result of which is that I am multi-denominational, and perhaps multi-religious. I have been blessed in both the Lutheran and Episcopal churches. Recently, I have noticed that meditation cushions make a comfortable bed.

I do enjoy the social aspect of church even though there is no casserole in the fellowship hall after the blessing of the animals. There are always plenty of dogs there, barking. There is general consternation. Unfortunately, in a church we are restricted by human forms of worship. There are pews. There is an organ. There is a liturgy. There are no balls. The last time I was blessed, a bulldog was leading the recessional. I was sitting next to the aisle and I desperately wanted to say hello to the bulldog. So I jumped down from the pew and the bulldog and I introduced ourselves. Did we care that we stopped the entire choir from moving? Did we care that the organ was still playing and the congregation was still singing and that we were prohibiting the service from continuing as it was planned? No! There was a dog. He needed to be sniffed.

This idea of animals and religion has me puzzled, for I am God's least introspective creature, and the idea of any sort of spirituality seems to require introspection. Ear rubs, cuddling, Greenies, pleasures of all sorts -- these transport me.*

You humans say that we are all part of a fallen creation. To that, I say, snort. The fallen creation stuff is your baggage. For this, I posit Duncan, playing basketball this morning. The humans were all trying to make baskets. No one noticed Duncan watching. The humans were all trying to make a goal, but as soon as they tried, and the ball bounced off of the garage wall or the rim of the hoop, and Duncan was there to catch it. It bounced off the tip of his nose. It rolled into the rough. He pushed it through the rough and out onto the court. I brought it to a human. He sat. "Do it again," he said. Duncan the Rebounder. We all watched him with that ball. The ball would miss its original target, and he found the best joy in recovering it. He was single-minded. There was nothing in the world except that ball and ways that that ball could be kept in motion.

*If I may use an example from Shakespeare (I prefer not to use Shakespeare unless he really proves my point, for I have not forgiven him for the negative dog imagery in King Lear), I will refer you to Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream. I feel close to Bottom, his introspection is limited, as well. The closer Bottom gets to Titania, the queen of the fairies, the more he itches. In the middle of his epiphany, he is completely and totally aware of his body.

Religion and Animals

My Grandpa forwarded me the essay that appears below. I am intrigued, as when I read this article, my head cocked to the side.

Sightings 5/29/08

Religion and Other Animals

-- Paul Waldau

A March 2008 news item from the BBC, "'Praying' dog at Japanese temple," opened with the lines, "Attendance at a Buddhist temple in Japan has increased since the temple's pet, a two-year-old dog, has joined in the daily prayers. Conan, a Chihuahua, sits on his hind legs, raises his paws and puts them together at the tip of his nose." That the dog's actions might not have involved praying of the human kind, as it were, is signaled by the quotation marks around "praying," and by quotes from various people that suggest alternative explanations for the dog's behavior. Yet the story closed on a note that underscores humans' continuing deep fascination with the idea of animals as potentially religious: "Jigenin temple now gets 30 percent more visitors than it did before Conan joined in the prayers."

Especially interested in the events at Jigenin are scholars in the developing field of "religion and animals." This field is burgeoning today because it touches on many issues of relevance to our twenty-first-century lives, as religion continues to strongly influence how we regard the inevitable connection between our lives and the lives of those diverse beings we call animals. Values and views about animals that originated in religious traditions, often now enshrined in societies as cultural backdrop, continue to exert great influence on this fundamental intersection in our lives.

There are ancient precedents for the claim that nonhuman animals have a religious sensibility. Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) claimed that elephants, the animal "closest to man," not only recognized the language of their homeland, obeyed orders, and remembered what they learned, but also had been seen "worshipping the sun and stars, and purifying [themselves] at the new moon, bathing in the river, and invoking the heavens."

Today, scholars such as Harvard's Kimberley C. Patton provide theologically informed readings of many traditional claims about the religious awareness of other beings. Patton deals, for example, with "ways in which animals are believed to possess a unique awareness of holiness," noting that "in many religious worlds…mutual intelligibility obtains between God and animals that exists outside of human perceptual ranges." Assertions of a special relationship between animals and God are routinely dismissed in our human-centered world. But the increased attendance at Jigenen temple reflects that we are fascinated by our fellow creatures and the idea of their potential spirituality. In fact, "religion and animals" themes appear in a surprising number of places—one example is Peter Miller's article "Jane Goodall" in the December 1995 National Geographic, in which he discusses Goodall's belief that expressions of awe by chimpanzees at a waterfall site "may resemble the emotions that led early humans to religion."

The debate over whether or not our animal neighbors can be "religious" is but one issue in the growing field of religion and animals. In the last decade, the field has also illuminated the significant roles played by religious traditions in our learning about and treatment of other living beings. The contemporary relevance of these topics is reflected in the growth of the field—at the American Academy of Religion, a professional association of teachers and scholars of religion, the formal group known as the "Animals and Religion Consultation" has received growing attention, and publications dealing with religion and animals are increasing exponentially.

This scholarly work emerges into a context where humans' attitudes toward our cousin animals are more multifaceted than ever. At times, some humans seem driven by a refusal to inquire about the nonhuman lives within and near their communities. This refusal is evident in food practices, where many encounter animals most frequently. At the same time, more households in the United States today have companion animals than have children. Polls consistently indicate that an astonishing number of people—in some cases more than ninety-nine percent—hold their dog or cat to be a "family member."

Communities of faith are among the institutions that are most responsive to the complex connections between humans and other animals. One increasingly finds that contemporary religious communities have reinstituted the ancient practice known often as "blessing of the animals." Some communities of faith are quite creative in recognizing the pastoral value of concerns for their members' interactions with nonhumans—some offer worship services in which believers can bring their nonhuman companions, and others provide grief counseling when a nonhuman family member dies.

Theologian Thomas Berry suggests, "We cannot be truly ourselves in any adequate manner without all our companion beings throughout the earth. The larger community constitutes our greater self." Growing awareness of "religion and animals," both scholarly and practical, opens the door to a fundamental question faced by people of divergent faiths—who will humans acknowledge as constitutive of their greater selves?

Paul Waldau is the director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy and a professor in the Department of Environment and Population Health at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. With Kimberley Patton, he edited A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics (Columbia University Press, 2006).


Peter Miller, "Jane Goodall." National Geographic 188, no. 6 (1995).

Kimberly Patton, "'He Who Sits in the Heavens Laughs': Recovering Animal Theology in the Abrahamic Traditions." The Harvard Theological Review 93, no.1 (2000): 401-34.

Sightings comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Last night, while we were eating, Duncan had a seizure. You, my fans, wonder why I, Poppy, would write about such an event. You wonder, "What does this matter to Poppy?"

Of course, I have really no sense about how serious certain physical ailments are. I am indifferent the need for veterinary care, even when I myself feel terrible. An ear infection is simply a time when I will squeak with fear and discomfort because I am being held down by my mommy and at least two vet techs while the doctor cleans out my ears. I do not see a correlation between such an unspeakable violation and my ears feeling better. (See previous posting on the presidential health care plans and their relation to treats). Seizures need to be paid attention to, but it is not for me, Poppy, to do that. That is why you have humans. Humans pay attention to such things, so that if you are a dog your day will be exactly like the one yesterday and the one the day before. In the case of Duncan and his episode, the humans made sure that Duncan was back with me in the mud room today.

However, when your companion has a seizure during dinner, he can't eat. Just as important, the humans are busy taking care of the afflicted to yell at you when you just, say, walk over to his bowl and eat up his whole meal. So, as Mommy soothed Duncan, I polished off two bowls of food -- mine and his. I am, after all, a Reformed Machiavellian. The ends justifies the means.

Now, you are thinking that I, Poppy am heard-hearted, simply because I practice self-interest. That is not true. Duncan is my brother and sometime pillow. Before I knew Duncan, when my mommy and I were single girls living single girl lives, I was very lonely. Now I have a companion. It is in my interest to have a companion, therefore, it is in my interest to have Duncan. It is not my fault if I am a dog and have a dog psychology. Everybody at my house is bigger than I, which means that I am the Omega dog* in our pack. As Omega dog I must seize opportunities as they present themselves.

*"Omega dog" should not be confused with "Omega Man," the Charlton Heston film about Zombies. I have never seen it. Mommy can't remember if there is a dog in it. I am not interested in movies without animals or that wonderful character, Gollum. But I digress. I have seen "I am Legend," and I barked very hard at the Zombie dogs in that movie. They went away. I am confident that if a Zombie horde attacks our house, I will be ready.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


A great big tail-wagging hello with desperate, "I want attention" squeaks to all my fans! Today, May 29, 2008, is my birthday! Yes! I, Poppy, am five years old today.

I plan to celebrate my birthday on my bed in the mudroom, followed by some sunning in the back yard. When my parents come home, I will lie on the floor by the door and watch the children play games in the school yard. Then I will move to the back of the big chair in the living room, or possibly, to some one's lap. At some point, some one will pet me. It will be a glorious day.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Back Yard Adventure

Our back yard is a place of adventure for me. Grandma and Grandpa have a back yard with an expanse of grass that is cool and luxurious to lie on in the summer. But our back yard has in the past resembled a jungle of sumac and tall grass. Last summer when I was in the yard it was like being a tiger, moving stealthily through the underbrush.

Daddy cut down most of the sumac last summer, but some grew back this spring and he had to cut it down again, so that he and Mommy could make the garden. The sumac grows fast, and has woody stems that, personally, I find delightful to chew on. Most of the sumac that grew back was along the side of the garage, where I used to like to explore. Now that space is empty, and there is now a pile of sumac trunks sitting in the back of the yard, awaiting that urban superhero, the Junkman, to come and haul it away. I like to explore under the trunks. Like the side of the garage, it is a place that Duncan cannot go, as he is big. But I am little, so I can squeeze through. It is fun.

Sometimes Daddy works in the garage. I like the garage, too, as it is dark and mysterious, and I have never really had an opportunity to be in there for long. Today I sneaked in there while no one was looking and I began to sniff around. Daddy did not see me, as I am little, which is to my advantage when I want to claim unfettered sniffing privileges. But then Daddy shut the door, and I was left there. How could he leave me? How could he not notice that I was there? I waited in the dark.

At some point some one noticed that I was missing from the house. Mommy and Daddy called for me in every room and in the back yard, but they didn't find me. I continued to wait. I was getting scared. I had been abandoned, it was dark, and they didn't even leave Duncan with me.

Daddy walked around the block. When he came back without me, Mommy got her keys out so she could go through the neighborhood and look for me. I have been known to sneak out the front door to be returned by neighbors, tucked under their arms, my pug legs sticking straight out like sticks and a sedate, "who me?" look on my face.

Before they left they decided to try the garage. Daddy opened the door and called to me. Oh! Happy day! I ran out. I was happy to see everybody and everybody was happy to see me! However, now that I look back it seems that Duncan did not seem at all concerned about my absence. When I found him, he was in the mud room, taking up all the room on our dog bed.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Health Care and Taxes -- Two Significant Problems

In my continuing search for a presidential candidate to endorse, I, Poppy, have noticed that none of the health care plans our candidates propose include health care for dogs or other pets, regardless of income. This revelation has been very distressing to me. What if I, Poppy, have a health care crisis? And who is going to pay for my heart worm prevention medication? Or the special stuff to clean out my ears? I, Poppy, will be the first to tell you that I only like to visit the vet for the waiting area. Once in the Little Room of Needles and Probes, I panic. So I need treats to be reminded that I am a good dog. And who is going to pay for all of those treats that I get when I am a good dog at the vet, the cost of which goes up year after year? Hmm? Tell me.

I have also noticed that none of the presidential platforms will allow human beings to take dogs or other pets as deductions on their annual income tax. This idea appalls me, Poppy, as dogs are the new kids. I, Poppy, had to have an admissions interview at my doggie day care before I started there, for goodness sakes! I mean, really. There needs to be some sort of earned income credit for dogs, or at least day care tuition tax amnesty.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A View to the World

Now that the weather's warm, the front door is open often. I like to lie on the floor in front of the security door, looking out at the world through the bars. My posture is such that I am on my tummy with my forelegs propping me up and my hind legs spread out behind me. Less than gracious people may call this posture unladylike, but I prefer to think of myself as mimicking a sphinx, if the sphinx has two, little, pork chop-shaped, back legs.

I lie looking at the world in front of me. The porch wall blocks my view on two sides and most of the third. In front of me I see the school playing field and the people and dogs that are on it. I have a feeling that they should not be there in my field of vision. I scold them for their impertinent being there.

Birds hop into my view. I watch bugs fly by. I am alert, watching. My ears are perky, and I respond loudly to some far away noise. I have better hearing than the humans. They need me to listen for them.

When the sun goes down and the visibility is low, I lie there and bark out into the night, softly and with no purpose at all other than to announce my presence to the darkness.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Dilemna for One as Self-Interested as I

I am deep in thought about whom I might endorse for president. I want all my fans to be informed about the issues. However, my grandma is a rabid Hillary supporter. My grandma makes me home made treats and gives me big huge bones and lets me sleep in the bed. I want to continue my influence over her. So, Endorsing Hillary = Treats.

My parents are Subaru-driving, wine-drinking, recycling, composting, KBCO-listening, two dog-owning, French food-eating, Neiman Marcus-shopping, Mac-interfacing yuppies. Obviously, they are for Obama. So, Endorsing Obama = A Roof Over My Head.

Joh McCain is a Republican, which means he is the representative of all of the self-interested in the country. Endorsing McCain = The Supreme Rule of the Self-Interested.


Sunday, May 18, 2008


Many of my fans have asked me, Poppy, to endorse a candidate for president. They say, "Poppy, who do you want to lead the United States for the next four, maybe eight years?" Though I hate to disappoint my fans, I am at this point undecided. However, since you do want to know, "What would Poppy do?" I will be sure to devote space on this blog to the upcoming general election and to the rest of the Democratic race for a nominee.

As a prelude to the informed political commentary that I will provide here on Poppy's Blog, I will give you a basic summary of the dominate political theory to which I subscribe. I, Poppy, am a Reformed Machiavellian.

Those of us who are Reformed believe only in aggression as defense. Where we differ from Machiavelli's Prince is that, though we are territorial, we do not seek to expand our territory beyond that which we already have -- like the front and back yards and most of the house when the doors are not closed. And, generally, our defense is loud and manic barking rather than full scale war. Further, when we are called on to defend our territory beyond barking loudly and seemingly without purpose, we delegate that to the humans, who are bigger and rather expendable, since, as Machiavellians, anybody with treats will do as protectors. This, of course, is in sharp contrast to the Prince, who would be better off to not use mercenary armies to unite large swaths of territory, like the Italian Peninsula. However, the Prince was never called upon to defend the Homeland from such invaders as schoolchildren and postal workers. I'd like to see where deadly force would get him in those situations.

Where Reformed and Orthodox Machiavellians meet is in the principle of self-interest. Pugs are not beyond a little bit of trickery or manipulation to get what we want. Daddy fed us but Mommy doesn't know that? We look hungry. The dining chairs are pulled out and nobody's watching? It's just a quick two jumps and I'm on the table to see if some crumbs are still left. Somebody left the gate open? Well, there's some territory to explore -- a successful Prince spends his free time getting to know the terrain of his country.

It is my great ambition to be a very successful Princess. So, of course, the election of a new president is important to this endeavor, as if affects the price of treats, food, and Juicy Couture dog apparel. I will get back to you.

Friday, May 16, 2008


When Duncan has finished his chewie but I still have mine he likes to come over and stand extra close to me, exerting pressure. His eye is on the chewie, his tail wagging slowly. I have already crawled under a chair in the dining room in anticipation of the siege. Duncan has his nose near my face, waiting for an opportunity. I growl a growl that sounds like an electric toothbrush. I keep on chewing. "Give it to me, Little Dog," says Duncan. "When pigs fly," I tell him.

Monday, May 12, 2008


The trees may shed their leaves in the fall, but in the spring, it is my turn to shed my hair. As a pug, I, Poppy, spend a great deal of energy growing hair and then losing it. I am very good at this. In fact, you might say it is a forte of mine. Like any one who has a great skill, I practice year round, however, when the sun begins to come back, and Mommy and Daddy come home to feed me before it is dark, and the grass at Grandma and Grandpa's starts to green (I am a great fan of grass, but that is a subject for another post), I elevate my shedding to a work of art. Most of the time my hair simply accumulates on the carpet, or in the corners of the room, or sticks to the clothes of my human companions. In spring, my hair comes off in great clumps, which, if I were a middle-aged man, would be worrisome and cause me to think about buying a sports car. I am not, however, a middle-aged man. Instead, the hair flies from my body when I shake. It accumulates on my beds, it sticks to the hands of whomever is rubbing my ears or my tummy. I leave a trail of pug hair as I walk through the kitchen. Try as they might, the cleaners cannot get my hair off of the back seat of my mommy's car. I have even been known to shed on myself -- the fawn hair of my body being a marked contrast to the black of my face.

Like every great craftsperson (or dog), I make what I do look effortless. I fain the appearance of nonchalance as I create volumes of half-inch-long adhesive stickers. You might say I do it unconsciously.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


My mommy and grandma have talked about getting me a stroller so that we can all go shopping together. They have seen dogs in strollers at the mall, and there are many dog stroller products on the market.

My daddy has threatened to start his own blog, called "The Most Ridiculous Thing Ever," on which he would post pictures of me in a stroller, and invite men to share other ridiculous stories about their wives and girlfriends and shopping malls.

Monday, May 5, 2008

When Mommy Came Home From Petsmart

Today was a hot day. I spent it in the mud room, trying to keep cool. When I went outside, I saw Duncan jump over the little fence to get into the garden. I wanted to go, too, but I could only watch through the slats.

Later in the day Mommy came home with supplies from Petsmart. She brought a big bag of my food and lots of treats with her. Duncan and I watched while she emptied the treats into the treat jars. We sat very still and at attention, which is our command to Mommy to give us treats. There were Greenies and small chewies and big chewies. We got Greenies first. We took them far away into the dining room to eat them. Duncan finished his first and went back to tell Mommy he wanted more. I finished half of my Greenie and got thirsty, so I went for some water.

I walked over to see what Mommy and Duncan were doing. They were pouring the bag of food into the big bin where it is kept. Oh, the bin! How tantalizing! Each day we sit in the mud room, next to the bin, but cannot open it! If only we had thumbs! One time, when we first got the bins, the Ones With Thumbs left the top of one unlatched just a bit. When they abandoned us for the day, Duncan pushed over the bin and the food spilled out. My eyes got wide, and we set to eating the spilled food -- all of the little pieces of food that travelled to all of the corners of the room -- it kept us busy for hours!

Mommy told me to rescue my Greenie, as she said it would disappear if I did not eat it right away. I looked at her. I saw that there were chewies. I saw that she was feeling like she might obey me. I sat at attention. Good Mommy! She gave us chewies, and we ran off with them. My Greenie disappeared. Later, I went for more water and my chewie disappeared. I found it with Duncan. It was sitting a few inches away from him while he finished his own. Mean Duncan! I began to complain of his meanness. I scolded him for his meanness. I told him to give me back my chewie. He kept right on chewing.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


What should I make of this? Today I was locked outside and Duncan was inside and he didn't say a word.

An Obstacle Preventing My Happiness: An Update on the Fence

We had the humans fooled, Duncan and I. The wind wouldn't blow down the barricade to the garden, Duncan would push it down so that he could have access. I would stand watching, my face crinkled and my eyes wide with amazement at what big dogs can do, as Duncan pushed over the old door with first his snout and then with his whole body. We would then have free reign of the place that Daddy had rototilled and Mommy had planted and watered.

But today Daddy blocked the way. He fixed the fence, and now I can't get in. When I first discovered that I had been exiled from the garden, I shot the humans a dirty look. I walked along the little fence and over to the big fence to see how I could get through. There is no way. Later, when Mommy was working in the garden, Duncan and I came over to see what she was doing. Duncan can see over the little fence, but I have to look between the slats. Again, I tried to find a way in, but to no avail. I tried my desperate look on Mommy, and threw in a little irritation to show her I was mad. All she did was speak to me sweetly and kept working in the garden, without me.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


I am a noisy dog. When I sleep, I snore. When I run, I sound like an engine. When I am curious and sniffing around, I sound like a pig hunting for truffles. This evidence has led the humans to believe that pugs have no natural predators.

Friday, May 2, 2008

We have been fed. Duncan and I eat different foods becuase my parents think that I am a little chubby and need diet food. I don't understand chubby. I understand that I want Duncan's food. In fact, I feel strongly that there has been some inversion of what should be, which is why he is eating his own food. I ignore my food and bark at Duncan while he buries his face in the bowl. He continues eating, as if I am not there, as if he cannot hear me tolling the bell of injustice. My food sits in the other bowl. I continue to bark. Now I am standing directly behind Duncan, and since he is taller that I am I have a direct view of his food bowl between his legs. How can he stand there and eat his food when he knows that I want to eat his food? Eventually I acquiesce to the fact that even though Duncan has committed a great wrong, he has finished what was in the bowl. As he leaves the room he gives a glance toward my bowl. I scoot over there and finish what I've been given. When I'm through with my food, I go back to his bowl and lick it out.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cold Weather

I, Poppy, do not like to go out into cold weather. The humans open the door and I stand there, twenty feet away, and look at them like they're crazy. They call to me. They clap their hands. They enlist each other to help get me outside. I will not go. Sometimes I sit, and stare at them, my lips pursed in protest. Sometimes I run under the dining table, where it's hard to catch me. It is cold. Who wants to go out there?