Dog and Thou

Gabi listening, even though I have just called her away from some wonderful buried thing in the yard. Check out those muddy paws.

One of my favorite bloggers is Rachel Mankowitz, who blogs at rachelmankowitz: The Cricket Pages. First of all, she is a wonderful writer. Secondly, she writes about her little dogs, Cricket and Butterfly, managing to illuminate the human condition by watching and photographing her dogs.

This time she has surpassed herself, though. She wrote “Listening Like a Dog,” about the way that Cricket listens to everything and everyone: intensely, actively, and with full engagement. I read it and recognized the quality she wrote about: Gabi is like that. She, too, listens with her entire body, all 7 pounds of it.

What if we human beings listened like dogs? What if we listened intensely to one another, waiting until the end of the story, then responding to what was said, not to our own thoughts?

I wonder if Martin Buber had a dog?

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

11 thoughts on “Dog and Thou”

  1. I love this idea. On the other hand, one of my three dogs often just stares at me and gives me a look that says, “I don’t think so” – and then pointedly ignores me.

  2. My dog Cassie and I trained as a therapy/assistance dog team. Children read to Cassie and teachers and kids petted her and told her all sorts of concerns and secrets. Cassie has soulful eyes and great patience-she radiates softness and patience. This encourages just about everyone to share, from the heart. A dog can teach us so much. It is always an honor to be on the other end of the leash.

  3. When I was a teenager and first read “I and Thou” by Martin Buber. I remember asking a rabbi if you could have an I/Thou relationship with your dog. I was told “no”, but I’ve always wondered about that. Reading your post has made me revisit that idea. My dog Sammi knows when I’m sad and she’s always there when I need comfort.

    1. Sue, I think there are many things we don’t know enough about, and our connection with animals is one of them. I certainly do not rule out the possibility of an I/Thou relationship with another species.

  4. Hello Ruth,

    Very nice to meet you! Thanks for visiting my recovery blog. What a *cute* little doggie. I have cats, and they too can at times give those same looks, and I to wonder at times? What are thinking? LOL.

    Catherine Lyon 🙂

    1. I am never entirely sure how much of what I see in my dog’s expression is really her feelings, and how much is my projection. Still, she seems to listen better than most humans!

      Cats can be very present, too, in a different sort of way. Does yours seem to know what’s going on with you?

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