In fact, many of us already attempt this “middle course.” Gopnik argues the advocacy for animal liberation that Rudy argues for in “Toward a New Animal Advocacy” seems extreme to most of us. At the other extreme, beating a dog or starving it because it doesn't have feelings like ours also seems extreme to most of us. Indeed we seem to naturally favor a moderate view.
Besides, we can reach consensus in certain key respects: we can all certainly agree that our study of dogs is in its infancy. The tensions in the accounts above certainly provide evidence of that. In addition, we can all appreciate that the human-canine bond is rare, and perhaps unique in nature. While there countless intra-species relationships, the human-canine bond is unique in that it’s so familiar to most of us, yet, as the above discussion points out, remains shrouded in mystery. Difficult as it may be, we continue to try to peer into our companions’ souls.
“Dog Story” touches me personally as well; like the author I too had a dog phobia that also began from
a German shepherd bite in my youth. Now, having shared my life with a canine, I also can attest to the warmth, joy, and love that can only come from having experienced dog-ownership. (R.I.P. Mousey, I love you.)
This brings me to a final point, that dog-ownership is one of those experiences that, like child-birth or falling in love, just isn't translatable in verbal terms. The warmth you get when your companion is always around you, the pleasure of a simple game of fetch, the heartbreak when you say your final goodbyes - they're all necessarily experiential. You can describe the experience of owning, loving, and caring for a dog, but no matter how good your description, it doesn't come close to the experience itself.
Gopnik’s article is thought provoking and interesting. It is well-written and well-researched; I highly recommend it. It is in the August 8th issue of The New Yorker. The issue is about $6; alternatively you can sign up for a free trial of the magazine and get free access to the article online at newyorker.com.