It’s naturally difficult, if not impossible, to catch Mika in the right mood for a conversation about the higher things in life. You have to wait for the right moment, such as when he’s relaxing. How does Mika relax? Well, it looks very much as if he’s sleeping or he is dead, which he isn’t, he’s very much awake; just ask him, ‘Mika, are you sleeping?’ and you’ll see the tip of his tail go this way and that to tell you, ‘No, I’m sleeping, can’t you see, you twit? And haven’t you heard the thing about letting sleeping dogs lie?’
Mika is lying on Kasia’s fully made bed, as usual; Mika will never jump on to an unmade bed, a bed unmade, as Shakespeare would have put it. Mika relaxes roughly like Goya’s la maja desnuda, that’s the Maja Nude for you. Only that Mika has his paws in the air and Mika can’t cross his legs, nor does he bother, so that his reproductive parts are fully on display. Looking at them sometimes makes you feel like Goya, who painted a maja vestida or Clothed Maja as well, which only perverts look at. And to paint a Clothed Mika Goya would have needed a lion tamer first, just to put Mika in those clothes, Mika being fully wild and not having possessed so much as a piece of underwear in his life.
So Mika lies on Kasia’s bed in the pose of the Naked Maja and pretends that he is asleep with his eyes open, which follow you around the room revealing the whites either from this side or that, giving you an uneasy feeling as if Mika were the Hound of Heaven à la Francis Thompson. That’s what gave me the idea in the first place: ‘Mika, tell us something about canine philosophy,’ I said.
‘What is canine?’ Mika asked. I explained. ‘Ah, you mean doggie philosophy?’ Mika said, ‘I know all about it. Every dog knows about it. Even bitches know about it. Don’t know about puppies.’
‘Give me the gist,’ I said. ‘Is it anywhere near as simple or as mysterious as Jack London made it?’
‘Ah, that man in Alaska who thought he was a wolf? Oh yes, he was one of us!’
‘That’s very sweet of you, Jack would have been pleased.’
‘Of course he was a dog, that man. All dogs think that they are wolves. Some even go a step further and think that they are lions or tigers. The only thing a dog will never think is that he is a man. A man might be a dog – your Shakespeare is full of that, isn’t he? – but a dog will never be a man.’
‘Is a dog afraid of death?’
‘A dog is afraid of pain, otherwise neither of life, nor of death. We don’t waste time on such things.’
‘Where do you get your confidence?’
‘Don’t you know? A dog lives in the right hand of God, like a newborn puppy in the hand of the Great Big Man. And when the time comes for the dog to die, the Great Big Man simply transfers the puppy from His right hand to His left hand. So we are never out of God’s hand, why should we be afraid? But there’s this story old dogs tell about two silly human beings, a man and a woman, who fell out of God’s hand. Must have been dozing on their watch.’
‘Or doing worse things. What’s canine heaven like?’
‘Boy, the things that are happening to your English since you started blogging… well, it’s your business, I suppose. Canine Heaven is like a huge garbage dump, like a landfill; everything that you throw away here, lands there; so all dogs and birds and all other animals have a field day; everybody’s a scavenger and nobody has to hunt, and if they do, even if they eat each other, there’s no pain and no cries except of the kind you hear at a football match. Nobody really gets hurt and everybody gets up and dusts themselves and curls up for the night to go to sleep.’
‘Which is like eternal day, like at the poles, haven’t you been watching your Discovery and the National Geographic?’
‘How do I get there?’
‘You mean to doggie heaven? Just die.’
‘Once you die, they’ll take you to the gate of Doggie Heaven where you’ll be asked whether you know any dogs – they’re very understanding, that way. You don’t have to possess a dog; you just have to be kind to some, maybe just to one dog. Or not even a dog; maybe to a cat, a rabbit, a lion – like that Androcles fellow – what the hell, just be kind to somebody or someone and you’ll be in heaven.’
Mika saw that I was getting confused – being only a man.
‘Don’t worry, when you arrive, they’ll call out for me or for Gypsy to come and vouch for you. Then we’ll have to come and say, yes, we know that man, he’s not all that bad. And they’ll let you in. And then we’ll be able to bite you to our heart’s content but don’t worry – it won’t hurt.’
‘But that hurts! Would you bite me if you could?’
‘Would you eat me if you could?’
‘I’d rather die!’
‘And so would I.’