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What Does It Mean to Care for a Dog?

August 20, 1986|MIV SCHAAF

Dogs by the week--why doesn't some enterprising person start such a service?

There are days I feel life is hardly worth living without a dog, but I am not at all ready to commit myself to one for 10 or 15 years--or 18, if one is as determinedly long-lived as Calico dog was. Wouldn't it be grand if you could keep a dog by the week or month, rent one for a year? But of course it's impossible; you can't return an animal any more easily than a child.

Is it the onrushing of our age or the onrushing of my age that keeps me and a dog apart? Well, one has to take care of it, that's the trouble.

Care-- Where does that oddly short word encompassing such wide concern come from? Latin probably, maybe related to caritas , something to do with the heart.

All wrong. The dictionary says my sentimental guesses are hogwash. "AS. caru ; akin to OS, kara sorrow, Goth, kara , OHG, chara lament; cf. OHG. queran to groan." Definitions include "Sufferings of mind; grief; sorrow"; "A burdensome sense of responsibility" and "anxiety" with heedfulness and watchfulness coming after, and "concern for a friend's welfare" near the end.

How strange that the word care comes from sorrow rather than love. And how interesting that people now so often say "Take care" instead of "Have a happy day"--have you noticed that? Do you think the upsetting happenings over which we feel we have no control have so drummed themselves into our unconscious that "Take care" replaces a more banal expression?

And, speaking of care, where does that leave us with caribou?

Oh ho--a Canadian-French word of American Indian origin "properly meaning pawer, scratcher," my Webster's International 1925 dictionary says. "The larger forms inhabit wooded localities and are distinguished as woodland caribou. The best known of these (Rangifer caribou) was formerly found in many of the Northern states, but, being easily killed, has been long since exterminated in most of them. The smaller forms inhabiting open country are called Barren Ground caribou. See under BARREN.

Barren--which brings us back to dogs. Once you've lived with them that's how you feel without one.

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