In these dog days of summer, I am reminded of a canine conversation I had on the Fourth of July. I was visiting New York City and setting out on a walk when I encountered a sheltie happily barking at passers by. I bent down to greet her and made what I thought was an innocuous comment about celebrating Independence Day. Her human corrected me and said that her sheltie companion was barking: “Resist! Resist!” Because in 2017 the most patriotic thing to do is, indeed, resist.
Of course, this took place in a precinct where a scant 21 percent of those who cast ballots did so for the current occupant of the White House, but I am thinking that our canine friends here in Winona, where a far greater percentage of humans voted for Trump, still know that resistance is well warranted. The dogs walking their humans on the streets of Winona, ever seeking new human friends who might pet them and maybe offer some tasty morsel, are fully aware of people carrying all they own on their backs, people too poor or ill to find housing, people most of us humans try to ignore. Our dogs, being much closer to the ground than we are, cannot help but notice the cracks and dips and rubble that strew our sidewalks and streets because the city’s paltry budget does not allow for proper maintenance and repair. And they are also most acutely aware of those increasingly frequent and harsh thunderstorms that terrify them and send them scurrying for safety in our laps and under our beds.
So yes, even in Winona, our canine companions might very well be urging us to resist, resist the policies and so-called thinking behind them that refuse to adequately fund healthcare and housing, that deny needed funds to local governments, and that deny human agency in climate disruptions.
But these friends also dream. We know this from the happy smiles and frantic tail-wagging that we see while they are sleeping. What are they dreaming about, we may wonder? No doubt a world with less thunder and lightning, with smooth streets and sidewalks, and with humans who have the good health and happiness to greet them always with kind words, if not a treat.
There’s a reason we call dogs man’s — and woman’s — best friend: not only are they entertaining and loving and forever urging us off the couch, but they are also wise. So we might want to learn from their dreams and dream our own vision of a world where humans treat not only dogs, but all humans, all creatures and the earth on which we live, with care, and dignity, and respect. As activist and writer Naomi Klein reminds us in her recent book: no is not enough. We must resist destructive, extortionist, mean-spirited policies and policy-makers, but we must also dream. For just as the powers we must resist are acting on a certain vile vision of the world, so too must we develop a vision that will provide us with direction to move beyond resistance, beyond no, toward a future that can sustain us humans, our planet, and all our relations.