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SHE is lean as a wolf, and very old,--the white bitch that guards my gate at night. She played with most of the young men and women of the neighborhood when they were boys and girls. I found her in charge of my present dwelling on the day that I came to occupy it. She had guarded the place, I was told, for a long succession of prior tenants--apparently with no better reason than that she had been born in the woodshed at the back of the house. Whether well or ill treated she had served all occupants faultlessly as a watch. The question of food as wages had never seriously troubled her, because most of the families of the street daily contributed to her support.

She is gentle and silent,--silent at least by day; and in spite of her gaunt ugliness, her pointed ears, and her somewhat unpleasant eyes, everybody is fond of her. Children ride on her back,

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and tease her at will; but although she has been known to make strange men feel uncomfortable, she never growls at a child. The reward of her patient good-nature is the friendship of the community. When the dog-killers come on their bi-annual round, the neighbors look after her interests. Once she was on the very point of being officially executed when the wife of the smith ran to the rescue, and pleaded successfully with the policeman superintending the massacres. "Put somebody's name on the dog," said the latter: "then it will be safe. Whose dog is it?" That question proved hard to answer. The dog was everybody's and nobody's--welcome every-where but owned nowhere. "But where does it stay?" asked the puzzled constable. "it stays," said the smith's wife, "in the house of the foreigner." "Then let the foreigner's name be put upon the dog," suggested the policeman.

Accordingly I had my name painted on her back in big Japanese characters. But the neighbors did not think that she was sufficiently safeguarded by a single name. So the priest of Kobudera painted the name of the temple on her left side, in beautiful Chinese text; and the smith put the name of his shop on her right side; and

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the vegetable-seller put on her breast the ideographs for "eight- hundred,"--which represent the customary abbreviation of the word yaoya (vegetable-seller),--any yaoya being supposed to sell eight hundred or more different things. Consequently she is now a very curious-looking dog; but she is well protected by all that calligraphy.


I have only one fault to find with her: she howls at night. Howling is one of the few pathetic pleasures of her existence. At first I tried to frighten her out of the habit; but finding that she refused to take me seriously, I concluded to let her howl. It would have been monstrous to beat her.

Yet I detest her howl. It always gives me a feeling of vague disquiet, like the uneasiness that precedes the horror of nightmare. It makes me afraid,--indefinably, superstitiously afraid. Perhaps what I am writing will seem to you absurd; but you would not think it absurd if you once heard her howl. She does not howl like the common street-dogs. She belongs to some ruder Northern breed, much more wolfish, and retaining wild traits of a very peculiar kind. {p. 136} And her howl is also peculiar. It is incomparably weirder than the howl of any European dog; and I fancy that it is incomparably older. It may represent the original primitive cry of her species,--totally unmodified by centuries of domestication.

It begins with a stifled moan, like the moan of a bad dream,--mounts into a long, long wail, like a wailing of wind,--sinks quavering into a chuckle,--rises again to a wail, very much higher and wilder than before,--breaks suddenly into a kind of atrocious laughter,--and finally sobs itself out in a plaint like the crying of a little child. The ghastliness of the performance is chiefly--though not entirely--in the goblin mockery of the laughing tones as contrasted with the piteous agony of the wailing ones: an incongruity that makes you think of madness. And I imagine a corresponding incongruity in the soul of the creature. I know that she loves me,--that she would throw away her poor life for me at an instant's notice. I am sure that she would grieve if I were to die. But she would not think about the matter like other dogs,--like a dog with hanging ears, for example. She is too savagely close to Nature for

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that. Were she to find herself alone with my corpse in some desolate place, she would first mourn wildly for her friend; but, this duty performed, she would proceed to ease her sorrow in the simplest way possible,--by eating him,--by cracking his bones between those long wolf's teeth of hers. And thereafter, with spotless conscience, she would sit down and utter to the moon the funeral cry of her ancestors.

It fills me, that cry, with a strange curiosity not less than with a strange horror,--because of certain extraordinary vowellings in it which always recur in the same order of sequence, and must represent particular forms of animal speech,--particular ideas. The whole thing is a song,--a song of emotions and thoughts not human, and therefore humanly unimaginable. But other dogs know what it means, and make answer over the miles of the night,--sometimes from so far away that only by straining my hearing to the uttermost can I detect the faint response. The words--(if I may call them words)--are very few; yet, to judge by their emotional effect, they must signify a great deal. Possibly they mean things myriads of years old,--things relating to odors, to exhalations, to influences and effluences inapprehensible

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by duller human sense,--impulses also, impulses without name, bestirred in ghosts of dogs by the light of great moons.


Could we know the sensations of a dog,--the emotions and the ideas of a dog, we might discover some strange correspondence between their character and the character of that peculiar disquiet which the howl of the creature evokes. But since the senses of a dog are totally unlike those of a man, we shall never really know. And we can only surmise, in the vaguest way, the meaning of the uneasiness in ourselves. Some notes in the long cry,--and the weirdest of them,--oddly resemble those tones of the human voice that tell of agony and terror. Again, we have reason to believe that the sound of the cry itself became associated in human imagination, at some period enormously remote, with particular impressions of fear. It is a remarkable fact that in almost all countries (including Japan) the howling of dogs has been attributed to their perception of things viewless to man, and awful,--especially gods and ghosts;--and this unanimity of superstitious belief suggests that one element of the disquiet inspired by the cry is the dread of the

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supernatural. To-day we have ceased to be consciously afraid of the unseen knowing that we ourselves are supernatural, that even the physical man, with all his life of sense, is more ghostly than any ghost of old imagining: but some dim inheritance of the primitive fear still slumbers in our being, and wakens perhaps, like an echo, to the sound of that wail in the night.


Whatever thing invisible to human eyes the senses of a dog may betimes perceive, it can be nothing resembling our idea of a ghost. Most probably the mysterious cause of start and whine is not anything seen. There is no anatomical reason for supposing a dog to possess exceptional powers of vision. But a dog's organs of scent proclaim a faculty immeasurably superior to the sense of smell in man. The old universal belief in the superhuman perceptivities of the creature was a belief justified,--by fact; but the perceptivities are not visual. Were the howl of a dog really--as once supposed--an outcry of ghostly terror, the meaning might possibly be, "I smell Them!"--but not, "I see Them!" No evidence exists to support the fancy that a dog can see any forms of being which a man cannot see.

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But the night-howl of the white creature in my close forces me to wonder whether she does not mentally see something really terrible,--something which we vainly try to keep out of moral consciousness: the ghoulish law of life. Nay, there are times when her cry seems to me not the mere cry of a dog, but the voice of the law itself,--the very speech of that Nature so inexplicably called by poets the loving, the merciful, the divine! Divine, perhaps, in some unknowable ultimate way,--but certainly not merciful, and still more certainly not loving. Only by eating each other do beings exist! Beautiful to the poet's vision our world may seem,--with its loves, its hopes, its memories, its aspirations; but there is nothing beautiful in the fact that life is fed by continual murder,--that the tenderest affection, the noblest enthusiasm, the purest idealism, must be nourished by the eating of flesh and the drinking of blood. All life, to sustain itself, must devour life. You may imagine yourself divine if you please,--but you have to obey that law. Be, if you will, a vegetarian: none the less you must eat forms that have feeling and desire. Sterilize your food; and digestion stops. You cannot even drink without swallowing life. Loathe

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the name as we may, we are cannibals;--all being essentially is One; and whether we eat the flesh of a plant, a fish, a reptile, a bird, a mammal, or a man, the ultimate fact is the same. And for all life the end is the same: every creature, whether buried or burnt, is devoured,--and not only once or twice,--nor a hundred, nor a thousand, nor a myriad times! Consider the ground upon which we move, the soil out of which we came;--think of the vanished billions that have risen from it and crumbled back into its latency to feed what becomes our food! Perpetually we eat the dust of our race,--the substance of our ancient selves.

But even so-called inanimate matter is self-devouring. Substance preys upon substance. As in the droplet monad swallows monad, so in the vast of Space do spheres consume each other. Stars give being to worlds and devour them; planets assimilate their own moons. All is a ravening that never ends but to recommence. And unto whomsoever thinks about these matters, the story of a divine universe, made and ruled by paternal love, sounds less persuasive than the Polynesian tale that the souls of the dead are devoured by the gods.

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Monstrous the law seems, because we have developed ideas and sentiments which are opposed to this demoniac Nature,--much as voluntary movement is opposed to the blind power of gravitation. But the possession of such ideas and sentiments does but aggravate the atrocity of our situation, without lessening in the least the gloom of the final problem.

Anyhow the faith of the Far East meets that problem better than the faith of the West. To the Buddhist the Cosmos is not divine at all--quite the reverse. It is Karma;--it is the creation of thoughts and acts of error;--it is not governed by any providence;--it is a ghastliness, a nightmare. Likewise it is an illusion. It seems real only for the same reason that the shapes and the pains of an evil dream seem real to the dreamer. Our life upon earth is a state of sleep. Yet we do not sleep utterly. There are gleams in our darkness,--faint auroral wakenings of Love and Pity and Sympathy and Magnanimity: these are selfless and true;--these are eternal and divine;--these are the Four Infinite Feelings in whose after-glow all forms and illusions will vanish, like mists in the light of the sun. But, except in so far as we

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wake to these feelings, we are dreamers indeed,--moaning unaided in darkness,--tortured by shadowy horror. All of us dream; none are fully awake; and many, who pass for the wise of the world, know even less of the truth than my dog that howls in the night.


Could she speak, my dog, I think that she might ask questions which no philosopher would be able to answer. For I believe that she is tormented by the pain of existence. Of course I do not mean that the riddle presents itself to her as it does to us,--nor that she can have reached any abstract conclusions by any mental processes like our own. The external world to her is "a continuum of smells." She thinks, compares, remembers, reasons by smells. By smell she makes her estimates of character: all her judgments are founded upon smells. Smelling thousands of things which we cannot smell at all, she must comprehend them in a way of which we can form no idea. Whatever she knows has been learned through mental operations of an utterly unimaginable kind. But we may be tolerably sure that she thinks about most things in some odor-relation to the experience of eating or to

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the intuitive dread of being eaten. Certainly she knows a great deal more about the earth on which we tread than would be good for us to know; and probably, if capable of speech, she could tell us the strangest stories of air and water. Gifted, or afflicted, as she is with such terribly penetrant power of sense, her notion of apparent realities must be worse than sepulchral. Small wonder if she howl at the moon that shines upon such a world!

And yet she is more awake, in the Buddhist meaning, than many of us. She possesses a rude moral code--inculcating loyalty, submission, gentleness, gratitude, and maternal love; together with various minor rules of conduct;--and this simple code she has always observed. By priests her state is termed a state of darkness of mind, because she cannot learn all that men should learn; but according to her light she has done well enough to merit some better condition in her next rebirth. So think the people who know her. When she dies they will give her an humble funeral, and have a sûtra recited on behalf of her spirit. The priest will let a grave be made for her somewhere in the temple-garden, and will place over it a little sotoba bearing the

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text,--Nyo-zé chikushô hotsu Bodai-shin[1]: "Even within such as this animal, the Knowledge Supreme will unfold at last."

[1. Lit., "the Bodhi-mind;"--that is to say, the supreme Enlightenment, the intelligence of Buddhahood itself.]

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