The Philosophy of a Dog

Watching my dog during the course of a day and we begin to understand what motivates him. Dogs aren’t pretending. They aren’t acting. There’s no mask or false facade.

Michael is a Boston terrier. He reminds me a lot about myself, as different as we are. I’m not sure whether it’s the fact that I raised him like this or if he developed his little idiosyncratic traits on his own. He can be stubborn, needy, but he is also full of wisdom. 

I often look at my dog and wonder if he is living a happy life. Sometimes he looks at me with those sad puppy eyes.

What’s a good life for a dog? And if Michael could teach me something about living, what would he teach me? 


Perhaps he wants to teach me to be patient. How complicated is it for a human to have a conversation with another human? It takes years before we could go beyond crying and screaming to get what we need. To think that we have to communicate with an animal… How do we do it, except to be patient? We are learning a language of our own. A language that involves words and bodies. It’s more a conversation of emotions than it is of context. A dog doesn’t know I’m late for an appointment or that I have a very important presentation coming up. All he knows is that I’m stressed. 

How do I get this dog to eat his dog food? Is it the food he doesn’t like? Is he not hungry? Or does it simply want it in another vessel? Like speaking, we begin to form messages through patterns. The word “Treat” has somehow resonated with Michael. The same way I perk up whenever I hear someone talking about burgers. He’s good with “sit” too. “Come” is a little harder to understand. But be patient, Michael would tell me and don’t get frustrated when we start speaking in different languages. 

michael the boston terrier


Michael doesn’t worry about his legacy. I try not to either. But I catch myself often wondering: What great works and ideas will I pass onto the next generation? I feel that thinking of the future in this way motivates me. But perhaps it causes me more stress than necessary. Why should I feel as though the future should be my responsibility? Why can’t I simply be this little bit of wonder that blinked briefly in time only greatly affecting those people closest to me? Can’t my legacy simply be like Michael’s to make those lives closest to his better? 

There is a certain expectation for humans to contribute. As we’re now standing on the shoulder of giants of the past, we’re expected to lift up the next generation. However, it would be just as fine for me to make my primary goal to be good to those directly in my orbit as opposed to thinking of how I can greatly impact the whole universe.  


When I was a kid, I dreamed of a life where every day would be unique. Every day full of new adventures. Such a life would never get boring. But that’s not a real life… that’s a storybook life, where all the dull bits are edited out. It is our routines that make up our lives — and so does a dog’s. All Michael wants is to have a routine that he enjoys and repeat it consistently for the rest of his life. 

If you want to teach a dog tricks, you need to repeat it. You need to make learning a part of his routine. And so routines are the same for us. Yes, the dog may choose comfort but we can choose another objective for our routines. The key is that we must stick to it. What we choose for our routine is what makes up our lives. 


What’s most interesting about Michael is how he takes up space. He always seems to find the most comfortable spot, it’s an amazing skill. As pleasure seeking animals, it’s easy to understand the appeal of comfort. There is this epicurean concept of necessary desire and unnecessary desire. Michael best represents what it means to be happy by chasing the right desires. My dog focuses on treats he likes and comfy spots to sleep in, but he doesn’t get caught up with the desires that curse humans. 

He doesn’t get caught in the need to rise in social class or make more money to impress friends. There is no status he wants aside from reaching a certain level of comfortable. If nothing is causing him physical pain, he’s as happy as a nugget. 

Michael doesn’t consider some invisible objective, he lives in the physical realm, where all that matters is whether he wants to be on pillows or stretch out on the entire bed. I try to be like him and live parts of my day in the present world — I think the best way to accomplish this is to take a nap. That’s how you fully indulge in it. To simply take up space in the physical world. 

When you find it hard to be understood, when you are thinking too far into the future, and when you are getting too worried about something you want and don’t need — think of Michael and remember that while you are freaking out. He’s taking a nap. 

Maybe you can use a nap as well. 

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Screw the pooch

Image via

Johnny Depp’s dogs do not deserve death

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. June 2, 2015

Many dog lovers and fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean series were holding their breath in mid-May when Johnny Depp faced threats from the Australian agricultural minister. The two-time Sexiest Man Alive was caught smuggling his Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, into Australia. The country has strict animal security laws that are put in place to prevent spread of rabies among domestic dogs. This meant that Depp’s beloved pets faced threats of euthanasia, and he himself, jail time.

No dog deserves to die because of their owner’s folly, and certainly not ones that have no legitimate case of rabies. You think Depp’s cutie little dogs are going to hurt anyone or anything? If you do, then it might be better to put you down.

Obviously I understand the severity of the case: Australia is not located far from countries where stray dogs run rampant, such as Indonesia. And with such a rough history of animal infestation—remember the Rabbit Proof Fence erected to keep pests from invading Western Australia?—it is natural to take caution with such an event.

The government is mighty powerful, but I believe this event was more of an opportunity for the Australian government to assert its might and alert travellers that the law is not to be trifled with. Threatening a celebrity’s pet—or anyone’s pet—is akin to threatening their children. It’s a big deal. They want people to remember the threat next time they are tempted to smuggle pets into the country.

Still, it ultimately comes across as a farce. Politicians killing little dogs sounds like the first scene of House of Cards, doesn’t it? The government handled the situation tastelessly. It made them appear like bullies rather than the cautious obedient mutts they are. I agree that Depp should not have any higher form of treatment than us normal people, and with that being the case, just fine him. Why resort to murder? Why does something need to die just because you want to teach a celebrity and the world at large a lesson?

It’s understandable for the government of Australia to feel undermined by a big-shot movie star—yes, the one from Mortdecai—but no one was harmed and animals deserve to be with their owners the same way children deserve to be with their parents. Perhaps Depp should have known better, but thanks to his folly, we all know how uptight the Australian agricultural security is.

Keep your dogs off the ledge

falling dog

Dog owners should have pets on leash in urban areas

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 26, 2014

Off-leash dogs in urban areas are not only dangerous to the animal, but also to commuters and pedestrians.

Will the third canine death as a result of jumping over a three-foot-high ledge overlooking Expo Boulevard at BC Place Stadium teach dog owners to keep their pet restrained? I sincerely doubt it. As long as there are dogs, there will be defiant dog owners who believe their “well-trained” animal will never do anything stupid like run into traffic, jump on a child, or—God forbid ever again—leap over a barrier and fall 25 feet.

Now, some can blame the infrastructure for being dangerous, but the area around BC Place Stadium is not an off-leash area and the barrier clearly states that there is a steep drop below. Granted, the dog probably couldn’t read the sign. Now it’s not my intention to sound insensitive, but there is nobody to blame except the owner. Sorry. Learn from the mistake and keep your dog on its leash, especially in urban areas.

Dogs are naturally curious, energetic animals. They are also unpredictable. Dogs have jumped in front of my vehicle more than once while I was driving, causing me to brake hard, narrowly avoiding killing it. The owners run out onto the road, grab the dog, and yank it back onto the sidewalk. They wave, smile apologetically, and I drive off with a sinking feeling in my stomach. When I get upset at pet owners for not keeping their dog on leash, they regard me as someone who hates animals. I don’t hate animals; I’m not a pet person, but I don’t hate animals.

Should an off-leash animal get injured or killed in a public area, it’s not the infrastructure’s fault and it’s not an unfortunate bystander’s fault. It’s the pet owner’s fault. I would hate to kill someone’s pet. Nobody wakes up in the morning and anticipates killing someone’s best friend, but that is what happens when stubborn, lazy owners are negligent. In the States, cars kill approximately one million dogs every year.

Refusing to keep your dog on a leash in public areas is as bad as feeding the animal chocolate. And even though BC Place has agreed to take actions to prevent future incidents involving the dangerous ledge, the real change in thinking needs to be communicated to pet owners. It doesn’t matter how much your dog deserves freedom. For its own safety it should be restrained.

Stop your dog from running into traffic, stop your dog from attacking other dogs, stop your dog from bugging pedestrians—not everybody likes dogs—and finally, stop your dog from running rampant and endangering itself and other people.