That of Dog

Photos by noemie, CallallooAlexis, kisscsanad, jagodka, Eric Isselée

Mia sat cross-legged on the floor in front of her laptop. She inhaled and opened her eyes. A patchwork of faces covered her screen. Eyes closed. Silent. She closed her eyes and waited for that still, small voice. And waited. And waited.

“I have to pee.”

Mia opened her eyes again. This time, Ralph’s black-and-white face peered over the top of her laptop. She made sure she was muted and turned off her webcam. “I took you out for a walk an hour ago.” The evening walk was a little earlier than usual so Mia wouldn’t be interrupted during the called meeting of the Peace and Social Justice committee.

“Yeah, but I have to pee again.”

“Can it wait?”

Ralph’s front paws shifted restlessly from one to the other. “No.”

Mia sighed, stood up, and walked to the door. She grabbed a leash from its hook and leaned down to fasten it to Ralph’s collar.

“Why do I have to be hooked up to that thing?” 

“You know why.”

“It’s a stupid law.”

“But a law nevertheless.” 

“It’s humiliating.”

Mia scratched Ralph behind his ear. “I know, buddy. I don’t like it either.”

As they walked along the sidewalk, Ralph began his olfactory survey. “Jojo was here not too long ago. And Baxter.”

“Just take care of your business. I need to get back.”

“OK, I’m—hold on.”

“Now what?”

“A rabbit. Definitely a rabbit.” Ralph tugged at his leash, but Mia held tight.

“Get on with it, please.”

Ralph sniffed about. Fire hydrant, no. “No parking” sign, no. The Bradford pear tree, yes. He lifted his leg.

“Are you done?”

“Yeah.” Ralph looked across the street. “Hey, Rosie! How’s it going?”

The corgi walking on the opposite sidewalk, with Mrs. Johnson in tow, responded. “Can’t complain.”

Mrs. Johnson waved at Mia, and Mia waved back.

“I hate to interrupt, but we need to get back,” said Mia. “This matters to you, Ralph. We’re working on the dog proposal.”

“Cool. It’s about time you treated us as adults instead of like kids in First-day school or babies in the nursery.”

“You’re three. Not an adult.”

“Twenty-one in human years,” said Ralph. “And more mature than some human adults, I might add.”

Mia laughed. “You have a point there. Let’s go.”


Illustration by AllNikArt


When they got back to Mia’s apartment, the committee was still at work. A voice, probably Mary’s, said, “It doesn’t go far enough. We should be fighting for justice outside of meeting, as well.”

The committee considered Mary’s statement in silence. Mia unhooked Ralph’s leash and hung it up.

“That human speaks to my condition,” said Ralph. “There’s more to equality than sitting together in meeting.”

“I agree,” said Mia. “But it has taken so long to get this part of it done. There are folks who are pretty resistant.”

Ralph sneezed in reply and went into the kitchen as Mia sat down and turned her camera on. Ralph lapped loudly at his water dish.

Bob was clerking the meeting. “Can we come to consensus on this part for tomorrow’s meeting for business and allow the rest of it to season for consideration at a later date?”

“This Friend speaks my mind,” said Sally. Most of the faces on the screen nodded. Mary unmuted and said, “I’m easy with that.”

After a few moments, Bob said, “Very well. Can you share your screen and read the statement aloud for us, Adele?”

Some text appeared on the screen as Adele read along.

“Springfield Friends are committed to the Quaker testimony of equality for all. We recognize the impact of institutional species-ism on our canine Brothers and Sisters. That which separates us from each other separates us from the Divine.

“In recognition of our human privilege, and as a step toward healing the wounds of the past, we propose that meeting invite canine Friends to worship in the main meeting room. They may choose to sit on benches or the floor, whichever is more comfortable for them. Those who wish to remain in the kennel to worship are welcome to do so.”

“Do Friends approve?” asked Bob.

Faces reappeared on the screen and committee members unmuted to say “Approved.” Mia did the same, then remuted as the committee settled into silence to finish the meeting.

Ralph walked around to Mia’s side and looked at the screen. “Notice anything?” he asked.

“What?”

“There are no dogs on the committee.”


Image by ra2 studio


As Mia pulled her car into the meetinghouse parking lot, she was surprised to see so many dogs milling about on the lawn. Many more than an average First Day. There was no leash law on private property, so they were free to interact without the constraints imposed by humans.

“What’s going on?” She opened the rear car door to let Ralph out. “Just some of us getting together this week.”

“Seems like more than usual.”

“Yeah, well, today’s the day.” Ralph bounded into the group and was welcomed enthusiastically, tails wagging and noses sniffing.

“What day?” Mia asked nobody in particular.

Bob arrived with Bunsen, the Bernese Mountain Dog, who joined the group.

“Ralph tells me it’s some sort of special day,” Mia said. “Did Bunsen tell you about it?”

“Nothing specific,” said Bob. “But he did seem especially eager to get to meeting this morning.”

A Newfoundland named Freya stepped up onto the bench near the front door of the meetinghouse and spoke up: “Canine Friends, are we ready?”

A mixed chorus of affirmative barking responded, along with a few shouts of “Ready” and “Let’s do this.”

Ralph and Bunsen approached Mia and Bob. “We’ll be back by the time business meeting is over,” said Bunsen.

“Where are you going?” asked Bob.

“City Hall,” Bunsen replied, “to demand repeal of the leash laws.”

Ralph explained. “While we were relegated to the kennel every week, we were not just worshiping. We were planning some nonviolent direct action. Taking things into our own paws, so to speak.”

“Would you like us to make you some signs?” asked Mia. “We’d love to help.” “No thanks,” replied Ralph. “We have our voices.”

Bunsen added, “Leashes are just the beginning,” and they trotted back to the group.

Freya spoke again. “Remember, Friends, this is a peaceful demonstration. We will be on our best behavior. We will stay on public property. There will be no diversions for chasing rabbits, squirrels, letter carriers, or any other creatures. And if you must relieve yourself, do it now before we get started.” Several dogs headed around to the back of the meetinghouse.

Bridget walked over to Mia, with a baby on her right hip and a dog harness in her left hand. “Can you hold Adrian for me for a sec?”

“Absolutely!” said Mia, never one to pass up the opportunity to hold a baby. Mia held Adrian, who attempted to grab at her dangly earrings with pudgy, little hands, while Bridget hooked up a wheeled cart to her husky, Trevor.

“Django, Daisy!” yelled Trevor. A chihuahua scampered to the cart and hopped in. A beagle with her hind leg in a cast hobbled over, and Bridget lifted her into the cart. Django trembled with excitement.

“It’s so kind of Trevor to help the others who can’t keep up,” remarked Mia.

“Thanks.” Bridget took her baby back. “He’s happy to have something to pull in the summertime. He really misses sledding.”

As the stragglers returned from the back of the meetinghouse, Freya shouted “Friends! It is time to stand up for our rights! Leashes are for property! We demand the right to freely move about the city without the fetters imposed by unjust laws!”

Barks and voices signaled approval. 

“Our voice!” yelled Freya.

“Our choice!” the crowd responded. 

“Our speech!” yelled Freya.

“No leash!” The crowd continued the call and response for several minutes as they moved into formation.

Freya took her place at the head of the procession. “Onward Friends!”

They marched off the meetinghouse property and onto the street, breaking the law in the process. A border collie, a schnauzer, and a German shepherd led the group with Freya. Instead of the drums often used in human protests, they used their voices to bark out a rhythmic marching cadence.

Bark, bark. Yap, bark, yap.

Woof. Woof. Woof.

Bark, bark. Yap, bark, yap.

Woof. Woof. Woof.

Bark, bark. Yap, bark, yap.

Woof. Woof. Woof.

As the dog protest turned the corner toward the center of town, Mia smiled with amazement and pride. She turned to Bob and said, “We have work to do.”

Jacqueline Houtman

Jacqueline Houtman is a freelance biomedical science writer and editor, award-winning author of books for young people, COVID Tracking Project alum, and member of the Pandemic Tracking Collective. She is a member of Madison (Wis.) Meeting. Contact: jhoutman.com.

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