From the Womb to The Tomb.
I often lie on my porch and quietly watch my human counterparts run about, and I actually used to muse to myself that the big difference between being a human and a dog is the fact that humans are born with intelligence and a multitude of choices. I thought this until young Homer Barclay came to visit at the Inn.
At age 11, Homer Barclay’s life is just really beginning, and here I am at age 11, and my life is finally winding down to its end. Everyone realizes that a dog’s life “fast tracks” the human lifespan by a ratio of seven to one, so we don’t get much time in human-years to burn our candle at both ends.
Believe it or not, Homer’s full name is Homer Ulysses Barclay.
Isabel, of course, made a big fuss over Homer Barclay’s name. If you are at all familiar with me, you might already know that my own given name is Homer Ulysses Whitlow; some coincidence, eh? It was definitely enough of a coincidence to get my feeble mind to moving.
My first thought was, “Who would ever name a human child “Homer? And Ulysses?” I was presumably named by an old southern family in north Georgia whose ancestors turned their backs on the Southern Cause in the Civil War, naming some of their offspring after Ulysses Grant. Knowing the Barclay family, we can logically assume that young Homer Ulysses Barclay was probably named for an ancestor from his home state of Mississippi, or even after the ancient Homer’s fictional Greek King, Ulysses, of ancient Ithaca; but certainly NOT Ulysses Grant! But, we will never know . . .
My point is, even though Homer Barclay was born into the human species, he had virtually no control over what he was to be named; and, in my case, neither did I. When I was born, I came into the world as merely a male Lab Mix, the progeny of a male Border Collie (sheepherding dog) and a female Labrador Retriever. At the moment of my birth, I was just an unnamed puppy looking for a home.
At the moment of Homer Barclay’s birth, there were many labels swirling around looking for a place to reside! By the time young Homer Ulysses Barclay was five minutes old, much of his future was already charted out for him.
For example: the moment young Homer Ulysses Barclay came screaming and red faced into the world, he was a male, a Caucasian of Scotch/English origin, a Democrat or Republican or anarchist, a Baptist or Methodist, and probably already destined to be a member of the graduating class of 1991 at ‘Ol Miss., Auburn, or GA Tech. Up to the eventual choice of his college, young Homer Barclay will probably have little or no choice over some of the labels presented to him at birth.
It doesn’t really stop there. Being a large baby (9 pounds, 8 oz. and 23 inches long), his first words and first steps will forever be compared (by family members with too much time on their hands) to a host of his kin within the Barclay family.
By the time he was five, unknown to him, he would have laid claim to the family’s ongoing curse of chronic asthma. Uncle Mike’s quick temper, Aunt Ellen’s keen math aptitude, Uncle Lamar’s legendary frugality, cousin Bubba’s skill in intercepting a football, and even Great-Grandpa Ed’s mischievous eye and affinity for the art of horse stealing (there is usually a famous black sheep in every family).
For how many of you is life simply a self-fulfilling prophesy?
Fortunately, by the age of six, your human children enter and participate in a somewhat standardized grading process. This less-than-stimulating process is referred to as public or private education. Thanks to your highly evolved education system, your progeny who might otherwise speak in tongues, walk on all fours, or continue to nurse, get an opportunity to blend in with the greater community and run a new gauntlet created by your peers. Here, your kids – most of them anyway – will learn to settle into the comfortable conformity known as normal.
By the time our young human Homer is twenty-one, unless his family has suffered some sort of a melt-down, he will be a solid amalgam of an ongoing legacy (in which he probably didn’t play much of a part), and he will probably live by the norms of his culture (taught by people who have forgotten those norms long ago).
In the meantime, a dog born into a dog’s life has learned to spend mellow summer nights outdoors, roll over happily in mud puddles, lie on a huge expanse of grass with the sunshine on his face, catch countless handouts from trusted friends, and never have to wear a watch. Unless he becomes a Service dog, he will never have to go to school, be judged, graded, weighed, measured or tested. A dog’s life!
As for young Homer Barclay? Maybe, just maybe, young Homer Barclay will someday step forward to accept a Nobel Prize, or find a cure for cancer or heart disease; or maybe he will just learn to live, love, and function in this world without pretense or compromise, and be able to look back on a peaceful and glorious life like I can!