Given the weightier matter of late–an academic review, a short story C.S. Lewis wrote that ends in a gruesome death, and Lewis’ strained relationship with his father–I thought it might be appropriate to lighten things up with some humour.
I’m not a dog person, myself. All my friends seem to fill their lives with these slobbering, noisesome, aromatic, emotionally needy, pawing, intellectual inept, and financially raking creatures we call “the Family Dog.” I like the idea of dogs, but I like them outside, wandering through the farm chasing away rats and frightening burglars. This is their role, I believe. Yet dogs continue to dominate the suburban landscapes of my social world.
One of C.S. Lewis’ most humorous passages in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, is the description of his dog, Tim. In a chapter where he describes the making of lifelong friendships that will ultimately steer his mind and heart toward the Christian faith, Lewis’ puts in a paragraph about Tim, his family dog. Despite my canine disinterest, this really is a wonderful passage.
“I had, to be sure, the society of Tim, who ought to have been mentioned far sooner. Tim was our dog. He may hold a record for longevity among Irish terriers since he was already with us when I was at Oldie’s and did not die till 1922. But Tim’s society did not amount to much. It had long since been agreed between him and me that he should not be expected to accompany me on walks. I went a good deal further than he liked, for his shape was already that of a bolster, or even a barrel, on four legs. Also, I went to places where other dogs might be met; and though Tim was no coward (I have seen him fight like a demon on his home ground) he hated dogs. In his walking days he had been known, on seeing a dog far ahead, to disappear behind the hedge and re-emerge a hundred yards later. His mind had been formed during our schooldays and he had perhaps learned his attitude to other dogs from our attitude to other boys. By now he and I were less like master and dog than like two friendly visitors in the same hotel. We met constantly, passed the time of day, and parted with much esteem to follow our own paths. I think he had one friend of his own species, a neighboring red setter; a very respectable, middle-aged dog. Perhaps a good influence; for poor Tim, though I loved him, was the most undisciplined, unaccomplished, and dissipated-looking creature that ever went on four legs. He never exactly obeyed you; he sometimes agreed with you” (Surprised by Joy 155-156).
This family pet who wasn’t much company, didn’t like walks, hated dogs, and was generally useless. Yet, he was greatly loved, and provided the occasion for one of Lewis’ most sublime descriptions, “Tim, though I loved him, was the most undisciplined, unaccomplished, and dissipated-looking creature that ever went on four legs. He never exactly obeyed you; he sometimes agreed with you.”