These Ancient Eyes: That Canine Perspective

Friday, August 5, 2011

I missed my normal posting day of Monday. If it helps, expect at least 2 blogs today. 😛 For starters, I saw a movie I’ve been meaning to watch for awhile this weekend, and it got me thinking.

The movie was Disney’s 2006 remake of The Shaggy Dog, with a genetic twist on the normally magic-driven story. Though it isn’t the semantics of the story that got me thinking – it was the juxtaposition of the mannerisms of a dog on a human being. And I’m not just talking about the dramatic “running on all fours” or some of the other things he was capable of doing thanks to the infection of the dog’s DNA. I’m talking about the things I saw that hit the “therian” trigger in my head.

When the main character, played by Tim Allen, is initially infected, his mannerisms immediately begin changing. He starts behaving “like a dog,” but the thing that interested me most was that he didn’t seem to realize it. How many therians occasionally scratch or shake like an animal? I know I do, sometimes. And I remember the first time I’d realized I’d done something like that without conscious thought.  I was maybe… seven years old or so. Now, admittedly, I did spend a lot of time pretending to be an animal at that age and earlier (but, as I learned in my Human Development class last semester, that’s actually a normal stage of human development – trying to find where you and how you behave fits in with other creatures you observe, either in person or through mediums such as TV or movies). However, this was different.    I had an itch. I scratched it. I only realized afterwards that I’d scratched it (albeit with my hand, not my foot, but the point still stands) rather like a dog. Something similar happens in the film, as well as “tail chasing” (reaching for the tie to his robe and ending up spinning around several times before getting ahold of it), and “feral eating,” though I the character in the film took this farther than I think any therian would allow themselves to go in polite human company. He ate a bowl of cereal as if it was a bowl of dog food, despite sitting at the table and holding a spoon in one hand – AND continued to hold a conversation with his (shocked) son while doing so, all without realizing that what he was doing was strange at all.

The ultimate moral of the movie was that none of us should get so caught up in human things that we forget the simple joys in life and that which is most important to us. In the case of the character, his family and simply NOT working his proverbial (and then literal) tail off all the time.  However, returning to the therianthropy angle, I was fascinated by the movie because of the animal actions taken by the human – his obliviousness and the people around him having their reactions aside, just watching it, it was fascinating.

It made me think a lot about what animals have to teach us about our own “higher” lives. Don’t get so stressed you forget what’s important is only one lesson we can take from our non-human co-inhabitants of this planet.  I wrote a paper once about how the extinction of a single animal species can throw off entire ecosystems – it’s the same in our lives. And not just in the lives of therians. I’ve watched people work themselves into the ground – or, more literally, into an emotional breakdown – repeatedly, never realizing that what it was they needed was to take the time to stop and smell the roses. But not just roses – so much delight can be taken out of ordinary things in life. So much pleasure – from the smell of bacon cooking, to the sounds of cars passing by, the songs of birds, the sensation of running your hand over the furry body of a purring cat, the simple and unconditional love of a dog – there is so much in this life that’s so easy to miss if we get so caught up in what we’re “supposed” to do that we forget what we NEED.

So let’s all take a lesson from the dogs, and therians – pay attention to your animal side. Don’t lose sight of the little things that make this life worth living. We’ll all be happier for it.