Dog Reincarnation

This entry is part 21 of 25 in the series The Mythology of the Modern World

It’s Monday and therefore the Myth. And the Myth is a thing that comes with a Monday.

This week, we get our Myth from long time friend of the writing Kirabug, who asks us:

Why does every small (15lb or less) dog I meet seem to think she’s 150lbs?

Now, interestingly enough, there is a specific answer to the specific question that Kirabug’s asking. That answer is, of course, that Kirabug is to dogs as mushrooms are to Mario. When a dog gets near her, it immediately grows 10 times its size — at least emotionally. So, if I’ve managed to make Kirabug subconsciously hear the theme music to Super Mario Bros. as she walks down the street from now on, I will consider myself a success in life.

But there is a much more general principle at work here. I mean, for such expansive thoughts to be triggered by Kirabug walking by, there is clearly a universal element at work. And we have all seen examples of tiny dogs acting like they’re huge. And for that matter, huge dogs thinking they’re tiny. The animals clearly don’t have a coherent body image, and while it’s easy to think that stems from their brains being far less developed than human brains and therefore incapable of really good complex thought, as it turns out that’s only part of the story. The rest of the story really rests on the story… of Dog Reincarnation.

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It might surprise you to consider Dog Reincarnation. After all, there is considerable question of what final destination humanity reaches after they ride the mass transit to Psychopomp Station and get their connecting trains. Do we go to Heaven or Hell? Do we reincarnate? How do our actions affect our afterlife? Is Jack Chick actually right when he says that the worst mass murderer gets to go to Heaven if he finds Jesus in the last twelve seconds before he’s electrocuted, while a kind hearted man who does well by everyone he meets who happens to be an agnostic burns in everlasting torment while being poked by demons who shout Haw Haw Haw? How can that be right?

Given these weighty matters, often the question of dog afterlives don’t even come up. “It’s a dog,” people say. “Who cares!”

The answer is, of course, children. Children want to know what happens to dogs when they die. Well, children and dog owners. It’s hard to be a dog owner. There’s no good theological solace to be found after the passing on of a beloved pet. Children, on the other hand, are naturally curious. I would say they’re more kindhearted too, but I was a child once and I remember that I and all my childhood friends were sadistic bastards who, if there is justice, will have our arms and legs pulled off by giant ants for at least six or seven days after we finally kick the bucket.

But I digress.

Dogs do indeed endure beyond life. And like many — though not all — species on our world, they reincarnate. Each life ends and the next begins, as they seek to generally improve themselves until they reach a peak element and transcend to a new level.

The problem is? Dogs have very small brains comparatively. They are sentient — which is to say they can perceive their environment, conceptualized in specific circumstances, understand reward and loss, and undergo suffering — but they are not sapient. They lack true understanding, true wisdom, true self-awareness beyond the animal basic. This is true in life, and this is true in afterlife. So, when a dog passes beyond the pale, leaving behind his mortal remains and passing through the veils on the karmic wheel to a new life, until such time as they achieve Moksha… there is more than a little difficulty in determining exactly what karma the dog has accrued in his life.

For centuries, judges and spirits tried to determine the balance of positive and negative karma — the yearning for material benefits versus the desire to achieve a far more beautiful and lasting spiritual fulfillment — within their canine charges before setting them through the wheel to rebirth in an appropriate new dog body. However, dogs as it turn out can’t talk. And generally have no concept of time. And have no idea what you’re discussing. And unless they’re actually present at the scene of ancient glories or ancient terrors they underwent, no real sense of the past, those glories or those terrors. Put bluntly: they’re dogs.

Further — what exactly constitutes the evolution of a dog’s soul? For a long time, that evolution seemed to be tied to their ancestors — the spirit of the wolf, or fox, or coyote. However, that was finally rejected. After all, human beings do not get closer to spiritual Nirvana and ultimate Moksha by becoming more like Neanderthals or other primates. There was some thought that perhaps they were striving for the ultimate rejection of their primitive past. However, that way seemed to imply that teacup poodles, chihuahuas and those ridiculous looking Japanese chins were the ultimate incarnation of dogdom, and pretty much everyone rejected this out of hand.

Further, with an explosion in the dog population, there became a real need for dog souls to continue on the cycle as quickly as possible, with little regard to whatever spiritual development the dog did or didn’t have. For practical purposes, at least one older dog soul should be among every dog litter, to help in the education and training of the young — not that they have conscious understanding of this, of course. So, the ‘judgement’ of dogs in the modern world tends to be taking them into the halls of the Karmic cycle, giving them a good brushing, asking the dog “who’s a good boy? Are you a good boy?” and then assuring them that “yes you’re a good boy! Yes you’re a good boy!” There is some throwing of the ball and the soft frisbee, and of course opportunity for treats and eating, and if there’s time a good nap on a sofa.

And then the dog moves back into the world to do it all again.

Which brings us to canine behavior. You see, unlike humans, dogs have a consciousness about their past lives far closer to the surface than you might expect. This might imply some deeper wisdom being accrued over time, but in truth dog brains just aren’t sophisticated enough to have past lives be buried through layers and layers of the subconsciousness. Which means that dogs who’ve undergone a lot of reincarnation can sometimes have a little bit of confusion built into their behavior patterns.

Of course, dogs don’t have conscious conceptualization, so this confusion needs to be triggered by events. A person walks through a door in a room the dog has spent a lot of time in. The dog is, perhaps, a Pekinese, but in his past he was once a German Shepherd painstakingly trained as a guard dog. He immediately goes into defense mode, barking and trying to drive the intruder off, confident that his large body and powerful jaws will give him both the intimidation and the power to back it up.

Which, to the person walking into the room, seems patently ridiculous. It’s a freaking Pekinese, and the only exercise it’s ever gotten was its thrice daily waddle off the back deck to poop and pee.

This is not reserved to small dogs, of course. It can be silly to watch a full grown Irish wolfhound try to climb into a hole that it would have fit perfectly through that time it was a cocker spaniel, only to get its nose stuck, or a great dane get confused, think it’s a toy poodle, climb into its owner’s lap, and crush the hapless soul to death.

It’s not the fault of the dogs. They don’t understand reincarnation. If they did, they’d probably be working towards their ultimate goal.

That ultimate goal is two staged, for those who are wondering. The ultimate dog breed — the one that only the most rarified souls can appear as, is actually the African Basenji. The Basenji is a highly intelligent breed, capable of mimicry and much broader conceptualization than most dogs. It does not bark (unless imitating another dog) but its vocalizations are highly expressive. They are fastidious, cleaning themselves in almost catlike ways and avoiding water lest they become messy. And if not given sufficient entertainment, they will make their own fun, often in destructive ways.

They also can climb over chain link fences, which has some pundits believing that the ultimate evolution of the dog involves burglary.

In this, of course, they are wrong. There is an ultimate stage beyond the Basenji for the dog who achieves the proper spiritual enlightenment. A Dali Lama, if you will. This ultimate achievement gives the dog true consciousness and affability, the ability to conceptualize and advocate, a greatly expanded lifespan and the capacity for both hard work and great fun — which can lead to tremendous success and enjoyment.

In other words, all dogs aspire to reincarnate as television legend Bob Barker.

Only one has achieved this to date, of course, and that was the aforementioned Mr. Barker. Mr. Barker is human, of course, and one would not cast aspersions onto this. But his soul contains multitudes you and I could only dream of. A soul that had a thousand thousand lives as dogs of all shapes, all sizes. Dogs with good lives and bad. Dogs with happiness and pain. Dogs that worked and dogs that played. If you look into his warm eyes you can almost see them — a pack of one.

Mr. Barker is not consciously aware of his past lives, of course. He has always been sensitive to the plight of the pet population, using his various forums to advocate better conditions for all animals. Most famously, he advocates spaying and neutering, being all too aware (if subconsciously) that other dogs will not achieve Bob Barkerdom until the pet overpopulation crisis subsides and their souls are given a chance to seek out true Basenji nature.

The only hints of Mr. Barker’s true origins have come, perhaps predictably, on the Price is Right set. Back in the seventies, for example, announcer Johnny Olson took a shiny red ball away from Barker during rehearsal and Barker instinctively tackled and savaged him. Mr. Barker’s quite innocent dominance behavior around ‘Barker’s Beauties’ led to a number of allegations of sexual harassment. Frankly, I would have sued too.

Later in life, as Barker settled down, his canine instincts receded almost entirely into the background, and he ended a remarkable fifty year run continuously on television just recently. Indeed, the only continuing nod to his past was his continued use of a tethering microphone instead of a wireless, as this had been deemed necessary to keep him from chasing the new cars as they were driven across the stage.

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9 thoughts on “Dog Reincarnation”

  1. It most certainly is. 🙂

    The notes are minimal. Many of the reincarnation concepts mash Hindu reincarnation and Buddist reincarnation together into a paste. I thought about tossing in references to various dogs and dog gods and Coyote and the like, but this seemed like a much simpler myth, a la “The Songs of Books.” Besides, it’s Labor Day.

    Of course, the evil antonym of Bob Barker is former MIT graduate student Dave Barker, but that is of course another story.

  2. Both Eric and dvandom need to now that they’ve actually moved backwards on the reincarnation scale with that pun. You’re both coming back as Carlos Mencia fans unless you do some serious karma work…

  3. Yay, Basenjis! They’re more or less tied with Corgis as the only dogs that I can really get along with, as I am a very extreme cat person.

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