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ON BOOKS: Dog lover writes a book to be taken lightly

All dogs go to heaven, according to the 1989 animated fantasy of the same name featuring the voice of Burt Reynolds.

Martin Luther believed that; Billy Graham thought that if one’s perfect happiness required one’s dog to be present, then one’s dog would be present in heaven. C.S. Lewis once wrote that he believed “certain animals may have immortality, not in themselves, but in the immortality of their masters.”

You could read Lewis’ statement as suggesting that our dogs are largely the product of our projections; it’s true that we manufacture our pets’ fictive personalities and ascribe to them motives that they mightn’t necessarily hold.

Why does Paris follow my wife into the kitchen? Probably because Paris has been conditioned to expect that tasty things sometimes fall from the sky. But why does Paris suddenly leap up from the couch in the middle of the evening and trot upstairs, leaving the rest of her pack alone for half an hour before returning? Even in our most sensible-seeming (to us) pet there is residual mystery.

A dog is not a person, but having lived with people for so long, dogs have developed certain coping strategies and co-dependencies. Even if we want to argue that they have no immortal soul, it is difficult for our kind to imagine paradise without them. So we populate our dreams of heaven with dogs.

French philosopher Mark Alizart’s charming and brief Dogs: A Philosophical Guide to Our Best Friends (Polity Press, $16.95), the English translation (by Robin Mackay) of his 2018 book Chiens, spends little time contemplating the afterlife of dogs. It is more concerned with the place they occupy on earth, which is somewhere between the feral realm of animals and our civilizations.

Alizart, being a French philosopher, would have us consider the dog’s “dialectical nature,” by which he means they

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