The dog. True yokefellow, working animal, the better half, the better self, source of unconditional love, mirror of the soul, carrier of dear loyal eyes where one can get lost in when everything else is lost, forbearing recipient of mercy… The love we impose on dogs is unending. And the list of what dogs are to us is long, gathering a lot of attributes – of us. Following certain theories dogs didn’t even exist without us. Like ghosts. Or poetry. But it wouldn’t be as beautiful if there wasn’t a last bit of uncertainty about that. Or, as Donna Haraway puts it: “Contrary to lots of dangerous and unethical projection in the Western world that makes domestic canines into furry children, dogs are not about oneself. […] Indeed that is the beauty of dogs.”
Dogs and people. It’s a complex story and food designer Enea Palmeto wants to put it on the table. When she organizes an installation for both species in the framework of the animal companion magazine Agapornis it’s not about humanization. It’s about coexistence. She made dogs and people eat the same thing at the same place at the same time, like, having dinner together. A dinner for everybody of orange-mint jelly. It was formed into little canapés and placed on top or underneath a transparent grid table for the various guests.
“Of course dogs don’t care about magazine events.” But apparently they do care about orange-mint jelly. And that’s the point. Having shared her whole life with dogs Enea cannot really understand the anthropocentric perspective of people and above all of dog keepers. The common ‘dog food’ is a strong expression of this worldview, made of meat that humans would never eat (and this is already something), from an industry that looks at many things but not at the needs of dogs. People keep feeding this dirt into their hairy darlings. And then they sleep in the same bed.
The recipe of the orange-mint jelly sprung up because Fiona, Enea’s dog, had digestion problems and couldn’t really walk for one year. Consulting a Korean nutritionist she found out that herbs are as good for dogs as for humans. But Fiona didn’t want to drink mint tea. So Enea made her mint jelly. She also stopped buying dog food and after a few weeks all problems vanished.
Fiona is a cheesy black Labrador soul that spends the day asking to be cuddled. She has the most wonderful and expressive orange eyes Enea has ever seen in her life. “Sometimes she runs away from me when I let her free in the mountains, ignoring my shouts of ‘Fiona come back’ ‘Fiona, stay’ ‘Fiona, please…’ 15 minutes later I would find her eating the wet bread that an old man uses to give to pigeons near one of the fountains of the park. Nothing compares to wet bread, we all know that as does Fiona. Fiona loves water as well. She would swim and play with a ball while drinking seawater that would make her have terrible diarrhea when we are back home. Summertime matters…”
Enea is grateful for every day she shares with her dog and she emphasizes that the beauty of this relationship has nothing to do with ownership. It is more about the effort of trying to understand each other, or, to quote Donna Haraway once more: “the permanent search for knowledge of the intimate other, and the inevitable comic and tragic mistakes in that quest.” Haraway is very important to Enea and she is consistent with the feminist biologist in saying that the devotion to the counterpart’s significant otherness shouldn’t stop at our relationships with dogs.