I’m in the Baked Café on First and Main, looking out the big wall of windows, watching all the Whitehorsians and their dogs. Phillip Pullman imagined an alternate reality in his set of books His Dark Materials, of which most people would recognize The Golden Compass. Everyone in this world has an animal companion. Some days, Whitehorse seems to take after that model. Every man and woman has his/her dog–mostly mutts, pound rescues, but some purebreds too. They walk these dogs down Main Street, tie them up at the different bike rack sculptures, let them spar with other dogs, eat with them, talk with them, live with them. You can’t find Susie without her two dogs–the Komondor giant dog that looks like a white sheepdog on growth hormones and the Bichon Frise, the Mini-Me to the first. Or Lily without her two huskies that she walks in the same way Uma Thurman might walk cougars, the leashes taut, pulling her. It’s beautiful to think that our companions complement–or even complete–us.
I have lived in other cities where there were dogs or cats, but never have I lived in a city where nearly every person had an animal companion like it is here. Phillip Pullman writes about your companion animal as your soul, certainly they reflect personality, certainly they too–like any companion–change the nature of our personality to not being just one person, but person with Merlin or Lucky or Danish or Peut Etre or Phish. Just like when you become a couple, the nature of your personality signature with other people changes. Some people are very different with their SO around. Some people are complemented by the other. Some people are more themselves alone.
Donna Harraway has a great book/pamphlet on these significant animal relationships called The Companion Species Manifesto, where she calls on us to think of our companions as unique non-humans in a symbiogenetic relationship with us. A unique couplehood where we each change the other.
My point: it’s not so hard to imagine Pullman’s animal companion utopia. I did it today. We see it everywhere. And those of us who live in the far north, peut etre, see it less as fantasy and more as commonplace–as we seem to be more familiar with familiars, and allowing ourselves to be mingled in with our companions, not fighting for our “me” but enjoying our “we.”