A Dog Named Socrates

By Don Beaudreau

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Dog Socrates

 

Once upon a time, a dog of independent mind strolled this planet, refusing to think, feel, or act a certain way simply because other dogs were doing so.

His way of relating to the world began during birth, when his eight siblings fought for top exiting position. Instead of joining in that dog fight, our puppy Socrates, merely observed the conflict. When there were no others left to go down the matriarchal chute into the light of day, he easily slid on through — much to the amazement of his mother, who thought she had finished.

She noted that unlike her other new pups, this one was injury-free, did not fight for position onto one of her teats, and had wide-open eyes that moved around the room, but were mostly focused on her.

“I’ll wait my turn, Martha,” he told her in well-enunciated English.

His mother did not understand a word of what he said, because she was, in fact, a dog. Nor did she know that her name was Martha. What she did know, was that this pup was not like his brothers and sisters, or like any of the other pups in all the many litters she had produced before this one.

Indeed, every time she urged him to fight for his right to suckle one of her teats, she heard him make this same odd sound, or ones similar to it. But eventually the other pups had their fill of Mom’s life-sustaining milk shake, and drifted off to sleep. That is when Socrates strutted over to Martha, and observing which teat of hers might need his assistance, looked up at her and said, “May I?” She merely smiled at yet another odd sound coming from him, and then felt his lips upon her. Gentle lips, not like the lips of any of her other kids…

As the days went by, Socrates preferred his own company to that of his family’s. He did, of course, continue to relate to his mother — always waiting his turn at her fountain. And always asking her before he indulged: “May I?”

His eight brothers and sisters thought him odd in his waiting his turn, but were only too happy because this meant one less dog fight over their place in the buffet line.

And after a while, they didn’t care or even notice that his responses to life were different from theirs. He didn’t bark, whine, or growl; nor did he frolic with them, chase his own tail, or try to bite them. He was no fun at all, they thought. 

Martha was busy enough without adding the role of therapist to her duties. But one day she commented on Socrates’s behavior to George, the father of her children. He merely suggested to her that she wait and see what would happen.

That day arrived soon enough. It even had a name, as observed on the front lawn sign: FREE PUPPIES HERE TODAY!

It was all over very soon, when his brother and sisters we chosen to begin their lives with their new families. Not that he cared if he ever saw any of them again. As long as he had Martha around to keep him from starving, he would be fine. Although later that afternoon when he attempted to nap for the first time in his life without his brothers and sisters around, Socrates felt uncomfortable. It was too quiet! Not a whimper, not a grunt. So he couldn’t sleep!

After a couple hours of restlessness, he began to wonder how things were going for his siblings. They all were so excited when picked by humans who seemed equally excited to welcome them into a new home. But Socrates didn’t really care that he wasn’t chosen. Did he? He certainly did not play the cute-and-adorable puppy game the way the others did in order to be picked. Instead, he just watched while this foolishness went on. He did not whimper in supplication to be noticed; he did not lick any human’s hand as a token of adoration; he did not allow anybody to touch him. Whenever he saw the possibility of the latter occurring, he scurried away as far as he could, and then turned his back toward that person as his way of avoidance. Truly, all those overly stimulated adults and children were causing so much commotion! Running around the outside of the little fenced-in area where his brothers, sisters, and he were! Watching their every move; deciding their fate:

“Look how cute that one is!”

“Oh, I really like that other one!”

“Her coloring doesn’t match the furniture!”

“Oh, look! He’s jumping up and down!”

“What’s wrong with that one over there? Is he dead?”

The last comment was made about Socrates, of course. The dog of independent mind.

Socrates had avoided being picked a number of times, until he realized that his last sibling had been scooped up, and there were no more people around. He was, in fact, alone. But then, wasn’t that what he had wanted all along?

Still, that did not explain how sad and uneasy he was feeling now. And he wondered how Martha and George were feeling about losing their family — well, except for losing him. But then, neither one of his parents ever seemed to care about him. Indeed, he knew that he was not somebody who was easy to care about.

He was contemplating all this and was beginning to wonder what his life would be like now and into the future, to the point of his getting a bit sad, when he heard a tiny cough, and when he looked up from his revelry to see who had made the sound, he saw a little boy, who perhaps was six years old, standing behind the small fence that separated him from the puppy. The boy’s eyes were cast down. Socrates noted that the kid looked as equally forlorn as he, himself, felt. He saw that the boy wore glasses, and was not just forlorn, but shy. Socrates saw that there was a woman and a man who stood a little bit behind the child, who he presumed were the kid’s parents. They watched him to see how he would react to the puppy.

Socrates looked at the boy with wonder and curiosity—two feelings he had never experienced. And not understanding why, he felt compelled to move toward the boy. When he did, he caught the boy looking at him. And suddenly the boy smiled. And the puppy felt another new feeling: connection.

Then he saw the kid turn around to his parents and say to them excitedly: “Mommy! Daddy! Can we bring him home! He told me he wants to come home with us!”

His parents were smiling now, too, and when his mother asked him what he was going to call the pup, the boy answered, “He already has a name!”

“Oh?” wondered his father.

“How do you know that?” asked his mother.

“He told me, of course! His name is Socrates!”

 

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