I could not stay inside a house. Again and again I went to the wall, the window, and finally an old man who had been sitting at the table with me laughed and said something to the others ... that I didn't get.
"What?" I asked, turning from the window.
"You have become one of them," he said. "A dog. You pace, you look out, you move ... like a dog."
"I smell like one, too ..." He nodded, smiling.
"Yes. You do. Only with that other smell there, too, the smell that comes from white places. But that is going away. Tell me now, isn't this better?"
"What?" I had been looking at the dogs again.
"This -- this way to live. With the dogs and the sled and the snow. Isn't it better this way than the way you live the other times?" ...
And I nodded. "Yes. It is."
"Good. You finish this goddamn thing and when it is done you get your woman and come back down the coast and live with us. We'll go hunting seals on the ice and your children will get fat and we'll sit and talk."
Lambs pronking through the meadow in the spring are as entertaining to watch as a litter of puppies romping in the kitchen; we must assume that they take the same infant joy in their play. I can think of no morally relevant distinction between the young of the two species, as species.
Cows love their calves; they are gregarious creatures who take pleasure in the company of their herdmates.
There are few vertebrates that are simpler than a Cornish cross hybrid meat chicken. Even they have their bestial satisfactions and uncomplicated personalities, and can be seen to be happy when their short lives play out in green and pleasant summer pastures.
In the end, we eat them. Some of us omnivores consider it important that our food has a decent life, one that is not only free from suffering, but replete with those things that bring happiness to each creature after its kind.
We demand the animal's death to feed our lives, but his pleasures belong to him. A well-kept food animal's life is his own.
Not so the lives of our animal partners. The companions who are designated "pets," and those who work for us or with us to achieve human ends unknown in the animal world. Our lives are commingled, boundaries blurred. They accept a mission for our well-being; if we are not perversely self-absorbed, their happiness becomes ours. We demand their whole lives as if issuing a mandatory marriage proposal. You and me, kid.
We can demand a life, or demand a death.
Every impulse of decency, every instinct towards fairness screams out against it.
Give me your life. Make my pleasure and my profit and my command your joy. Entwine yourself in my work and life and goals. Meet my eye with your own honest, shining gaze, and cavort with anticipation of the task I have for you. Serve me with your mind and heart. Become my will, and I will become your joy.
Having demanded that kind of devotion and received it, how does a human being then revise the contract to read "And when you are inconvenient to me, when I no longer require that you do my work, when the task that you literally scream to accomplish is not profitable to me, then die and get out of my way?"
The dog's screams had gone on all this time but with the last kick -- the blow must have almost literally exploded the dog's liver -- the dog fell back and grew still and it was over, in seconds it was over and he looked up at me, directly at me, and I saw things had never seen, never want to see again. I saw hate, self-hate, hate and rage and such savagery that I drew back and suddenly understood Nazis and rabies and rape and pillage and My Lai and the death camps ...
... to be able to do that to a friend, a close friend who has pulled you halfway across Alaska and wants only to love and be loved and to pull and see the next hill and is now gone. Killed. Murdered. To savage a dog that way, a friend -- he could do anything.