10 September

The Spiritual Life Of Dogs, Their Weltanschauung (And Mine)

by Jon Katz

Each dog and each human is different, yet our culture keeps insisting there is always one way to think about everyone and everything. Anyone who thinks differently is an outcast at best, an enemy at worst.

Dogs and people share one thing. It’s called a Weltanschauung and it has to do with their world view.

The idea that each of us walks on our own path and that this is a good and healthy thing is fading, another consequence of social media mobs and the “left” and the “right” way of thinking.  We always look to label each other and once labeled, there is no longer any reason o pay attention.

You must either be a “Trump” person, or an “Alexandria” person, nothing in between. Once labeled, we stop seeing one another as fellow human beings.

This disease has permeated the dog culture, we are forced to label ourselves, as in politics: rescue people, purebred people, animal rights people, needy people, loving people, crazy people.

When it comes to dogs, I have my particular worldview about them, as I know they have their particular view of me.

Dogs are profoundly spiritual creatures in my eyes, my life with them is very much about stewardship and responsibility. Those things are spiritual to me. Dogs have advanced my own spirituality far more than conventional dogma or religion.

Getting a dog is all about spirituality for me, it is not cuteness, rescue or unconditional love. To me, there is no love purer or richer than spiritual love, a love of respect and dignity and empathy.

Training is not about obedience to me, it is a spiritual communication, a commitment to showing a dog how to live lovingly and peacefully in the often dangerous world of humans.

People are always telling me that I am interesting, even though they aren’t sure what to make of me. I sometimes feel like some bug in a museum jar.

Even though I feel like a radioactive isotope sometimes, I can’t take this seriously,  I am not important enough to fear,  I am no threat to anyone.

Of course, people don’t always agree with me, why should they?  We are not robots, at least not yet. The fact that so many people feel the need to say this tells me a lot about individuality on our herd-like society. Disagreement is dangerous, threatening.

There are millions of people in our country who believe there are only two ways to look at the world, liberal or conservative, left and right. Anything else is voodoo, the other. How narrow.

Alan Bloom calls this the Death Of The American Mind.

When people tell me I have changed, I have much the same reaction as when they say they don’t always agree. Of course I have changed, I hope I have changed, I hope I will always change. Wouldn’t it be awful to never change, the very definition of stupidity and arrogance? How could I not change?

Isn’t death the opposite of change? I would be mortified to sit here at my computer after all that has happened and have anyone think I’ve never changed.

I am not a statue. I hope you will always see me change if and when you think about it. And I hope you will always disagree with me at times, that means you are thinking about it.

What does this have to do with dogs? My Weltanschauung about dogs is what I am writing about. Dogs, in fact, reflect my worldview, my change, mirror it, often guide it.

My world view of dogs is simple: they are not a moral or emotional experience for me, they are a spiritual experience. They are my spirits and guides. Each asks me to look deeply into myself, and be better.

I get the dog I want wherever it is: rescue group, shelter, breeder.

I think the first step in understanding my relationship with dogs has to do with that  Weltanschauung – my own comprehension of dogs and what they mean to me.

A Weltanschauung is a comprehensive philosophy of the world, a  conception or theory of the world and the place of humanity within it. The concept of a Weltanschauung has played an important role in the development of psychoanalysis and critical theory.

The best animal trainers talk about Weltanschauung as a dog’s view of the world, usually formed by 14 weeks and very difficult to change beyond that. How we approach them and trains them creates what they will become. So it’s important to prepare.

So my approach to getting a dog is always spiritual.  Can I learn and grow from a dog? Can I be a responsible and loving steward of a dog? Can I lead them without submitting to them and spoiling and confusing them? Can I make myself clear to them? Can I project what I want without words? Can they ease my loneliness and fear and help me to feel grounded and safe? Can I do the same for them?

The greatest challenge of living with a dog is that we can’t speak to one another in familiar and recognizable ways. We have to listen, we have to think, we have to speak without words. We have to learn to listen to them and talk to them.

The end result can be beautiful, the end result can be painful and disconnected.

That’s why I want to work so hard before I get a dog, and soon after. There is a lot at stake. The spiritual rewards are immense.


  1. Nothing cuter then Bud on a donkey made me laugh just love his little smoochy face so glad you saved that boy I bet he thinks he died an went to heaven after what he’s been thru

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