The Dogs of Humanity, Colin Dardis
Fly on the Wall Press, 2019 £6.99
Who Will Let the Dogs Out?
This collection is about our relationships to animals, as well as other humans. It is a compassionate look at how we exist in society and how we figure the non-human. It is, above all, about empathy. About seeing beyond ourselves, in order to truly see ourselves.
Animals were our first symbols, and so the foundation of our languages. In this collection, a vital relationship is brought back to the forefront of daily life. Humans are dogs and dogs are humans in a kind of semantic symbiosis — they give meaning to each other.
The relationship between humans and our canine friends has always been one of mutual dependence; we evolved alongside them, and they have long been our favourite companion animals. What species, then, is a better foil for the human in this collection? Dogs are used to explain human behaviour and highlight the perspectives of the downtrodden.
In ‘Runt,’ for example, the poor dog dreams ‘of blankets, of others’ fur’, perhaps revealing to ourselves a similar emotional poverty, a comparable loss of connection. We must be kinder to so-called ‘runts’ of the litter; we must be kinder to each other.
Human history has been a process of exclusion and segregation — of nature, animals and other humans too. Capitalist society has depended on this culture, but where has it left us? ‘Farmyard’ envisions the modern world as a farm without a farmer. We exist in our separate pens, going about our allotted roles.
But this pamphlet isn’t all doom and gloom; it is compassionate and generous. The final poem titled ‘The Humane Animal’ insists ‘We all are. We all are. We all are.’ We all are, that is, dying, sleepless, scared and unanswered. There is a sense of community in our similar state of abandonment in which everyone feels like a cuckoo — an imposter. And in this strange community of sorts, perhaps our relationships both human and non-human can come to be about inclusiveness rather than building our farmyard and pointing out the ‘other.’