I’m humming a favorite tune lately– The Impossible Dream, from the musical, The Man of La Mancha. A recent tour of Spain allowed me to soak in the Land of Don Quixote and so bring back not only vivid impressions of that land’s old-world charm, but also a livelier sense of Quixote’s character and romanticism.
Behind my new-found love of Spain and Cervantes’ Don Quixote is my perception nurtured over the past 17 years of creating and publishing Great Scots Magazine that the Scottish Terriers I love are Quixote-figures in Scottie-fur coats. The more I think my way into the spirit of Don Quixote, and the more I glimpse of the soul of the breed I love, the more I see Scotties in Quixote and The Man of La Mancha in my dogs.
For starters, both Quixote and the Scottish Terrier are poignant tragic-comedies. The vision of a senior gentleman battling a windmill or spying a barber’s brass shaving bowl and calling it a knight’s golden helmet of invincible powers or giving himself in holy solemnity to a prostitute as his Lady of Virtue; such visions are farcical– the stuff great buffoonery is made of.
The Scottish Terrier is a comic too. Although some may be inclined to doubt it, the Scottish Terrier can be a stand up comic of the Jerry Lewis physical-comedy type, or better yet, of the mischievous kind associated with Irish Leprechans and “little people”. My Burnsie, for example, is a hoot baiting my goats to charge him. He knows nothing of Spain’s veneration of matadors, but he’s got the essential moves down pat without training and ‘plays’ his own version of the bullring game. He stops near the biggest goat in the corral, feigns disinterest by looking away absent-mindedly as though distracted. It’s a red cape in the bull ring. The goat sees opportunity, lowers his head, and charges. Burnsie nimbly steps to the side, runs a quick circle round the goat, then stops and baits him again. What I see in the set-up after the circling– and apparently what Spanky the goat misses– is the laugh on Burnsie’s face over the farce of the whole scene.
But it’s not all laughs for Quixote or the Scottish Terrier. Behind the bizarre actions of The Man of La Mancha in the Cervantes story is unfunny mental illness, dementia we might say today, and paranoia. And out of sight lurking in the gene pool of today’s Scottish Terrier is genetic predispositions to cancers, especially Bladder Cancer, to which our dog is 20-30 times more prone than any other dog.
Tragedy and comedy. It’s life: Two faces of the Greek god Janus; two faces of the human predicament. It is the singular human gift to be of the heart of heaven and the heart of earth, thereby making the human journey the experience of parenting siamese twins of grief and hope.
We’re each little dogs in a big world; dreamers defiantly clinging to hope against the imponderables of Fate and circumstance. No wonder I love Spain and the literary figure of Quixote; no wonder I love Scottish Terriers, Quixote-figures in Scottie-fur coats. No wonder on karaoke night at the Sunset Grille and Bar in Albuquerque– especially nights when I am down– I throw my head back and sing … “To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to bear with unbearable sorrow, to run where the brave dare not go . . . This is my quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far . . . To reach the unreachable star!”
Joseph Harvill, publisher Great Scots Magazine