A Dog Teaches a Human an Old Trick

There are things neither evolution nor theism can explain. In Argentina a dog named “Capitán” has been sleeping on his former owner’s grave for the last six years. Every night, according to the caretaker of the cemetery, at 6:00 pm sharp, the dog assumes its post and stays there all night.

No one knows how the dog found the cemetery to begin with since it stayed home on the day of the funeral, but the fact is that after the owner’s passing, the dog found its way through the city of Cordoba until it found the scent identified with the man it once knew. (But didn’t the man already stink, thus emitted a different odor?). Maybe the dog followed the residues of the smell on the clothes of the people who attended the funeral? Or maybe it “talked” to other dogs living nearby? Or maybe the former owner had taken it there on a premonitory trip? Who knows?

No matter. The dog disappeared shortly after the funeral and the family thought it had been run over. After one week, when they went back to the cemetery, they found the dog keeping vigil on the grave. When it saw them, it emitted sounds that appeared to be the sounds of wailing.

But that is not all. After returning home for a few days, the dog returned to the cemetery for apparently it could not bear the thought of being that far away from the remains of its owner.

Now how do you explain that? At the risk of showing my ignorance here, I imagine that evolution would possibly say that it is purely instinctive. But how come other dogs don’t exhibit such signs of loyalty? And what “advantages” for the survival of the species would this behavior bring? Theologians would have nothing to say. After all, for so many of them dogs don’t even have a soul. But how can you be so loyal without a soul?

I don’t know what to say either, but here is what I have learned from “Capitán”:

1. There are some bonds that transcend the grave. I find in this story some indirect evidence that there is something in all beings that is intangible but real — some kind of a “soul connection” that apparently even animals can feel. This should give pause to those who believe that the material is all there is.

2. Dogs have this almost innate ability to know who their owner is. In a home with several people, how do dogs know who their real “papa” is? Is it related to how much love and care they receive or do they simply “pick” someone? And is this knack for branding only innate to animals? I once heard someone say “I am a fool for Jesus, whose fool are you?” Is it true that someone always has our heart or is there someone out there whose lord is only herself?

3. Grief is the deepest, most heartbreaking feeling anyone can ever experience. It’s been with us as long as humans have been around. If a dog can express its sadness over separation from a human, imagine what this sort of tear of the soul can do to a human being… Never underestimate the power of a loss. That is why I personally am happy that for me there is hope beyond the grave.

I never knew a dog could teach me lessons, but today I take my hats off to “Oh Captain, my captain,” faithful in life, loyal in death. Long live el “Capitán”!

Ivanildo C. Trindade