Notes of a Sportswriter's Daughter
by Donna Haraway
© Donna Haraway
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Marco, my godson, is Cayenne's god kid; she is his god dog. We are a fictive kin group in training. Perhaps our family coat of arms would take its motto from the Berkeley canine literary, politics, and arts magazine that is modeled after the Barb; namely, the Bark, whose masthead reads "dog is my co-pilot." When Cayenne was twelve weeks old and Marco six years old, my husband Rusten and I gave him puppy-training lessons for Christmas. With Cayenne in her crate in the car, I would pick Marco up from school on Tuesdays, drive to Burger King for a planet-sustaining health food dinner of burgers, coke, and fries, and then head to the Santa Cruz SPCA for our lesson. Like many of her breed, Cayenne was a smart and willing youngster, a natural to obedience games. Like many of his generation raised on high-speed visual special effects and automated cyborg toys, Marco was a bright and motivated trainer, a natural to control games.
Cayenne learned cues fast, and so she quickly plopped her bum on the ground in response to a "sit" command. Besides, she practiced at home with me. Entranced, Marco at first treated her like a microchip-implanted truck for which he held the remote controls. He punched an imaginary button; his puppy magically fulfilled the intentions of his omnipotent, remote will. God was threatening to become our co-pilot. I, an obsessive adult who came of age in the communes of the late 1960s, was committed to ideals of inter-subjectivity and mutuality in all things, certainly including dog and boy training. The illusion of mutual attention and communication would be better than nothing, but I really wanted more than that. Besides, here I was the only adult of either species present. Inter-subjectivity does not mean "equality," a literally deadly game in dogland; but it does mean paying attention to the conjoined dance of face-to-face significant otherness. In addition, control freak that I am, I got to call the shots, at least on Tuesday nights.
Marco was at the same time taking karate lessons, and he idolized his karate master. This fine man understood the children's love of drama, ritual, and costume, as well as the mental-spiritual-bodily discipline of his marital art. "Respect" was the word and the act that Marco ecstatically told me about from his lessons. He swooned at the chance to collect his small, robed self into the prescribed posture and bow formally to his master or his partner before performing a form. Calming his turbulent first-grade self and meeting the eyes of his teacher or his partner in preparation for demanding, stylized action thrilled him. Hey, was I going to let an opportunity like that go unused in my pursuit of companion species flourishing?
"Marco," I said, "Cayenne is not a cyborg truck; she is your partner in a martial art called obedience. You are the older partner and the master here. You have learned how to perform respect with your body and your eyes. Your job is to teach the form to Cayenne. Until you can find a way to teach her how to collect her galloping puppy self calmly and to hold still and look you in the eyes, you cannot let her perform the 'sit' command." It would not be enough for her just to sit on cue and for him to 'click and treat.' That would be necessary, certainly, but the order was wrong. First, these two youngsters had to learn to notice each other. They had to be in the same game. It is my belief that Marco began to emerge as a dog trainer over the next six weeks. It is also my belief that as he learned to show her the corporeal posture of cross-species respect, she and he became significant others to each other.
Two years later out of the kitchen window I glimpsed Marco in the back yard doing twelve weave poles with Cayenne when nobody else was present. The weave poles are one of the most difficult agility objects to teach and to perform. I think Cayenne's and Marco's fast, beautiful weave poles were worthy of his karate master.
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