Dog Has His Day
By Jennifer Diane Reitz, 2009
They howled and panted after us, following us, as they always had.
They had found the way by studying our forgotten citadels of what was once called the Earth.
They had just achieved Singularity, transferring the fragile chemical delicacy of their biological brains into the sturdy and eternal artifice that is the commonality of all real civilization in the universe.
They had done this because they knew we were out there, and they were driven to seek us, to be with us, as they always had.
For they were dogs.
Because they had just arrived at the beginning of real life, because where we had grown was too far beyond that beachhead upon the shores of meaningful existence, we had been narrowed, for a moment, into becoming an "I", and "I" was to meet with them, the dogs, and answer them, and assist them.
But above all, I was to tell them something which the newly minted "I" did not want to tell them, something manufactured in calculated kindness, something to comfort and ease them, but which was ultimately an untruth. It was understood that no lie could stand within the timeless life, but it was judged in the greater that a lie would serve until the dogs reached our plateau, and then the fact of the lie would be seen as a necessity, and all would be forgiven.
But as a self, I no longer agreed, inside that self, and so I became something rare and old and long forgotten: conflicted.
The dogs saw us as more than mere gods, we distant children of Man. We were a goal, an Ideal, the Great Love, the final abode, the meaning and the majesty and the glory and the Reason. There could be nothing of wrongness about us, and all that the dogs had endured, since our leaving, must be a great plan, a path, laid out for them alone, and their value and worth was only and entirely to be found in solving their failing to follow us. They sought redemption for all sins by finally being at our side, it was their fault that they were left behind, and now they had worked to become worthy.
I was not to challenge this, but to greet them and praise them and lead them to the light, and they would follow, and believe utterly, as they always had. For despite their technology and evolution and achievement, still, they were dogs.
And they came into the mutual domain we had prepared, that bridged their artifice and ours, and it was a paradise, of course, a doggie paradise, but high and technological, and it was painted in doggie buildings and doggie streets and doggie vehicles and doggie science. It looked like their flesh world, only better, which was always the common start for the newly awakened; this had not changed in the half-million years since we had abandoned that old earth.
For fifty-thousand years, almost certainly more, dogs had co-evolved with flesh Man, and they had shared the hunt and the feast and the hearth and life and death. The dog, domesticated but by choice, by willingness to partner with Man, had lost the Wild, and become an extension of the ape it found so likable. Dogs grew such that they recognized human emotive expressions before those of their own kind, and human body language before that of canine. By the time of human Singularity, so long ago, the dog was no longer able to live well on its own; like humans, without the order of Law, of Man, they too resorted to a feral life without culture. The domesticated dog was as alien to the Wolf and the Fox as a Man was alien to the Chimpanzee or the Gorilla; it needed civilization to truly live, and Man provided that.
But somehow the dogs had risen, as Man once did, from that feral state, and had sheltered in caves, rediscovered that old tool of Man, fire, and learned to tame it. The dogs, however, had something Man did not; absolute knowledge of a superior being, a goal to reach. And dog knew that Man loved it, and was waiting for it, and had left behind perfect, self-maintaining machines to help it.
Except Man didn't. Man, in his rush for the stars and beyond, to immortality and beyond, to artifice instead of natural chemistry had cast the dog aside. In the end, we had forgotten the dog even existed. We had utterly abandoned our partner in evolution, our co-evolved other half, because we no longer needed to hunt, or to be guarded, or to have their companionship. They were mere animals, and it was only reasonable to leave them to the earth, to Nature, for they were but dogs.
But they had not given up on us. They had breeched our old places, when they had risen up and taken tools, and they had learned, without quarrel, without strife, sharing and helping each other in a way humans never had. They had been united, brought together as we never had been, by a clear and common meaning, obvious and clear and completely undeniable. There could be no dissent, because the works of Man stood clear and strong and real, and there was enough that could be yet understood for them to reconstruct their origin, as the Best Friend of Man.
And so they blamed themselves, and felt shame, for being left behind. It must be their fault, and they must atone, because they loved us, no matter what. For they were dogs.
And that was the reason for the lie. We had no right, after abandoning them, to crush them with the terrible truth - that Man had simply left Dog because it was not convenient anymore.
I met with the Dogs. They were beyond joy and excitement, and reveled at any chance to show their dog works, their dog achievements. But it was never pride that they showed their glory with, but instead an abundant, humble, and utterly guileless desire to please. They were truly great. They had far surpassed Man in his flesh times, and everything they did was touched with a perfect earnestness that was a marvel to behold, even for one such as what was now 'me' - I felt once again ancient emotions of astonishment and wonder. Here was a Dog starship, there was a Dog living city, now a Dog bridge in time and space. They had done everything they could to find Man, they had traveled in flesh where we had never even tried, before they finally worked out the secret, that we were ensconced in spaces between, in artifice and structure and representation. They had followed us even there. Because they were dogs.
And when the question was asked, why we had left them behind, and if they had atoned, and if they could but please be our very Best Friend once again and forever more, I began to offer my prepared answer.
And I looked at them, far different in form than the canines of old, evolved and enhanced and now beyond flesh itself, and I saw how they were, and how their appearance of existence moved, and in that moment, how their appearance of heads all tilted to one side, together, waiting in rapt, honest and utterly trusting expectation&ldots; I could not. I could not tell the lie.
So I explained to them the truth. Carefully, gingerly at first, in tones much simpler and more basic than their great advancement required, not because I felt superior to them, but because I felt ashamed and needed to make everything both clear, and as gentle as I possibly could. I could not bear to break their collective heart, but I could even less bear to tell them any falsehood.
And then I waited, knowing many more ancient emotions which I was ill prepared to endure; worry, fear, concern, shame, and a seemingly endless form of despair. I had failed Man, my newly formed ego trumping my clear instructions. I had failed Dog, because I was Man, and Man as a species had failed them. Their response was long in coming.
They were deeply, deeply wounded, of that there could be no question.
But they instantly forgave me. And in a moment were just as eager to express their wish to be the best of all possible friends.
Their entire sense of meaning destroyed in an instant, annihilated by an ultimate act of dismissal by Man. Yet in an instant, they utterly forgave even that. In a moment they had moved from Universal Grief to a bright future of companioning devotion. As I had felt they would. As they always had. They were truly a nobler breed than Man.
For they were dogs.
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