In praise of a dog’s life

Sep 3, 2020

By H.L. Mencken

A dog is standing proof that most so-called human rights, at bottom, are worth nothing. A dog is proverbially devoid of any such rights and yet it lives well and happy. For one dog that is starved and mistreated, there are 10,000 that are coddled and overfed.

How many human beings, even under the perfect democracy which now exists in the United States, are so comfortable and contended? Perhaps a few actors and Hindu swamis  — that’s about it.

Moreover, it is idiotic to say that a dog’s life is empty and beastial. A dog has highly fastidious tastes in food; it knows how to play and have a good time; it has talents for amorous adventure; it acquires manners and prefers good society. In virtually all cases, it is surely much superior to the average Methodist.

And yet, a dog is very religious and its religion is free from superstition. The god it believes in is its master and that god actually exists and is actually concerned about its welfare and actually rewards it and punishes it on a plan comprehensible to dogs and meeting their approval for all its virtues and vices.

Dogs need not waste any time over insoluable theological problems. Their god is plainly visible and wholly understandable — they have no need of clergy to guess for them, mislead them and get them into trouble.

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Yet a dog has none of the great rights that men and women esteem, glory in and die for. It cannot vote. It cannot get converted by the Rev. Billy Sunday. It cannot go to jail for some great and lofty principle, say universal sufferage or prohibition.

It is barred from the Elks Club, the Harvard Club and Congress. It cannot serve its country by dying in the trenches of septicaemia or acute gastroenteritis. I cannot read the New York Times. It cannot join the YMCA. It cannot swear at waiters. It cannot eat in fancy restaurants. It cannot be a Presbyterian.
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From the Smart Set, April 1919

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