Congress for the Freedom of dogs!

        Chapter 16               

I don't know whether because of the masquerade or my old age is coming or I've watched too much TV, but lately I've had some weird dreams. It's been a real problem, as you'll see.               

Once I dreamed that dogs from all over the world had gathered for some congress. Everything was the way it is with human congresses: There was a huge hall with luxurious chandeliers suspended from the ceiling. There was a fancy stage with fancy lighting, a podium, microphones, cameramen, photographers and reporters. Everybody was rushing around, and the room was full of discussion and argument. I saw a shaggy dog with skewed eyes push his way with a camera through the crowd, whereupon a fat, spotted lap dog growled at him:

"Where are you headed, you shameless mutt? You came late, so now you can wait outside."
"Oh, but I'm sorry I forgot to ask your permission," growled the dog in reply.
"Yes, you forgot," the lap dog insisted. "You've been trying to cut the line your entire life!"
"You must be crazy," the dog answered with a slight chuckle. "What line are you talking about?"
"This one," said the lap dog caustically.
"Shut up!" snarled the shaggy dog.
The lap dog grinned with flashing teeth and gave a low growl.
"Why are you fighting like humans?" an aging bulldog asked, interrupting the argument. "You should be ashamed! You're cultured dogs, after all."
Suddenly, a soft melody filled the air. It sounded like the little ditty that goes, "Shave and a haircut . . ." Everyone rose and started howling along. Some multicolored flag flies up to the ceiling with two crossed bones. The music stopped, the applause came and went, and a hoary-headed, long-haired St. Bernard dog approached the podium.               

"Dear ladies and gentlemen," he said, "I congratulate all the delegates with the opening of the first International Dog Congress. We have gathered here to adopt the Universal Declaration of Dog Rights. This step has become necessary because humans have lost their sense of shame and conscience. We no longer want to tolerate the arbitrary behavior that our so-called senior brothers perform. The disdain and contempt for dog rights has resulted in acts of barbarism, which upset the collective conscience of dogdom. We must create a dog world in which all dogs, without exception, will have the freedom to bark, growl, howl and whimper! All the dogs of the earth shall be free from fear and need!"

The audience erupted into applause, and there was howling from every quarter. The spokesperson waited for the audience to calm down and then continued:

"All dogs are born free and equal in their dignity and rights. We are endowed with courage, faithfulness and honesty, and we will always serve as the example for mankind to follow."

Thunderous applause resounded throughout the cavernous hall.               

"Each dog shall have all the rights and freedoms declared by the present declaration, without any form of discrimination based on breed, color or coat length, social origin, property, estate or other factors. We shall be free from discrimination based on the political, legal or international status of the country or territory to which the dog belongs, regardless of whether that territory is independent, under care, non-self-governing or in any way limited in its sovereignty. Furthermore, each dog shall have the right to life, freedom and personal immunity. No one should be chained or be in a dependent state. The trade involving chains, collars and dogs shall be banned in all its forms. No dog shall be subject to torture, punishment or any other type of cruelty.            
The audience erupted into loud barking, whereupon the delegates jumped from their seats and started to applaud. A tiny dog of unknown breed that stood next to me wiped away a tear and whispered:

"What happiness! Finally, we have lived to see this bright day!" She turned to me and began to describe her troubles. "Imagine, dear Labrador, for the third time people drowned all my puppies. I begged my master not to do it. Do you think he listened to me? These people are so heartless, callous and cruel. Do you think anything will change in our lives after this Congress?"
"I don't know," I admitted. "Time will show. It's hard to argue with mankind, and I don't know if we have the strength to do it."
"But we aren't weary," the little thing answered. "We certainly are strong, and we're courageous!" She followed the affirmation with a good, solid bark.             

I looked at my neighbor, top to bottom, and nearly laughed. Oh well, some bundle of power and pride she was. I didn't say anything, though. Suddenly a shaggy poodle with a camera asked permission to take a picture with my interlocutor. I agreed, and my neighbor wagged her tail. While the photographer was adjusting his camera, my neighbor disappeared somewhere. "Oh, well," I thought, "you're not only strong but very courageous as well!" As soon as the photographer disappeared, my courageous little neighbor appeared again.

"Why did you run away?" I asked with obvious surprise.
"Well, you know, Mister Labrador," she said, wagging her tail, "I decided not to take the risk. I want so much to bark, rebel, show off and look at other dogs, but you can see what the problem is. If my master finds out that I've participated in this event, he'll throw me out. I won't have him to rely upon for my food."
"Oh, so that's the story!" I smirked. "Well, it's a weighty argument."
"Arf-arf," the dog agreed. "You should get me right."
"I understand," I nodded. "I get it all."

A gray dog took to the stage, but right away I sensed that he was wasn't just any dog. It turned out that he was a wolf hybrid.

"My friends," he started. "If we really want to have a quality improvement of our lives, we have to face the truth. I am very aggrieved that there isn't a single delegate from among the wolves and wild dogs. This isn't right . . . ."

Wild barking and noise rose from the audience. Someone at the rear exclaimed, "What is this nonsense!? Let's bring the jackals and coyotes in here, too!" The noise increased, and a fight started in the middle of the hall. The chairman seized the microphone and addressed the audience:

"Quiet, ladies and gentlemen. Quiet, please . . . . QUIET! We are here to talk about freedom of life and speech, but apparently there are those among us who don't extend that right to the speaker. That isn't the kind of fair play we seek. Please, give each speaker your full attention and courtesy. Be patient! Let's not make a three-ring circus out of this. Otherwise, people will laugh at us and nothing will change."

The audience settled down, but there was scarce respect for whatever the wolf-dog had to say and the audience didn't follow him closely. There was whispering, whimpering and even growling.

A huge Great Dane took the stand and immediately accused people of thievery.

"Do you know, friends," the speaker intoned, "that if these two-legged con artists weren't stealing our food we would eat two or three times better."   

The delegates gave shouts of agreement. "Hear, hear!" "That's right!" "Down with everybody!" The Great Dane glared at the audience, almost in reprimand against their willing subordination to mankind, and then continued:

"We shouldn't put up with this. We've been patient for far too long. So, if they continue to act this way . . . we'll seize them by their throats!"

The chairman promptly took the microphone and issued a reminder. "Dear speaker," he said, "please be more careful in your speech. Don't forget that people could hear us."
"So what!?" the Great Dane answered, flaring his nostrils. "Let them hear! We have nothing to be afraid of. Who has power: us or them? We'll throw them out of their warm houses and make them work for our benefit. They have exploited us, but finally we're ready to end all that."
"Nevertheless, please watch your speech," the chairman demanded. "Otherwise, I'll cut off your microphone."
"Let's ask the delegates," the Great Dane said, his temperature rising rapidly. "Friends, shall we throw the people out of their comfy homes? Yes or no?"
"Yes!" came a timid voice from the audience.
"I can't hear you!" chided the Great Dane. "It is 'yes' or no'?"
"Yes!" The audience replied a bit louder.
"Thank you for your attention!" said the Dane, and he left the podium.

The chairman gave the floor to a lap dog.

"My friends," she whimpered. "I support the previous speaker and would like to add something. How dare they treat us this way! Humans don't even let us walk where we want! Is this just? Why should we ask for permission from these two-legged impostors? This is our nature, and we'll choose where to walk and where to live! I demand complete freedom! The time has come to exercise our rights!"               

The words of the whimpering lap dog weren't received with enthusiasm. The audience went quiet. A German shepherd took the floor.               

"Dear delegates, I believe we are talking nonsense here. What is the freedom to which we refer? What kind of freedom do we seek? Let's get back down to earth. I'll ask you this: Is it really freedom that you want? All right, then freedom you'll have. Tomorrow, your master will say, 'You are free to live as you want. Rain or snow, out you go. Don't ask me for food or shelter.' What will you do with your freedom? Have you thought about it?"

The audience sounded again.

"Quiet, please," said the German shepherd, extending a paw, "I don't object to our desire for rights, and of course I stand against cruel treatment. However, it is too early to speak about complete freedom."

A dog of unknown breed whimpered from the audience. "This is provocation! Chase this evil spirit away! He is against freedom! Freedom! We want complete freedom, without any restriction! Arf-arf-arf!"   

The chairman quieted the crowd and declared, "Dear delegates, I announce a break in the work of our congress. We'll return to this discussion in a few days' time. Next on the agenda is a cultural program. Today, a special theatrical group will give us a fantastic show; a ballet based on Alexander Pushkin's poem, 'The Fountain of Bakhchisarai.' I hope you'll enjoy it."

The audience gave its unanimous approval with a chorus of barking. There was such great noise that I was compelled to sit upright and gaze wide-eyed at my surroundings.

Oh, how could I have such a dream!? Holy-moly! I have to stop watching so much TV, or soon I'll have to deal with nightmares!


  A Rainbow for a Friend: