Summary of Pater Caninus by Ray Bradbury

Pater Caninus is a short story in Ray Bradybury's We'll Always Have Paris. This short story sticks out among the rest as a story that looks deep into the self importance of human beings and the patience of our canine friends. It also sheds light on the men who dole out confessions to sinners and whether they have a monopoly on such things or not.

Pater Caninus is a simple story. The entire story takes place in one part of a presumably Catholic hospital that is apparently run by priests. The story begins when one priest points out to another priest that a dog who typically accompanies one of the fathers is at the hospital alone. The two men follow the dog and find that he is giving confession to the patients. He sits patiently and quietly while they confess their sins to him. When each patient is done, the dog puts his paw on their beds and goes to the next room.

The first priest is fascinated by this dog. He merely wanted to share the amazing canine with the other priest. However, the second priest is infuriated by the impression that the dog is somehow usurping his position as priest. He follows the dog to the door of the hospital and threatens to bring damnation upon the dog should it return. This mortifies the first priest, who points out that the dog was only doing what they themselves do. The second priest reiterates his sentiments.

On the suggestion of the first priest, the pair goes to see if what the dog was doing did any harm to their patients. He had not. In fact, the entire area had a feeling of peace. The second priest becomes ashamed of himself and sits in his office. Moments later, Pater Caninus walks into the room and the egotistical priest willfully confesses his sin in treating the dog as he had. That is the end of the story.

What is interesting about this story is that the dog appears to simply be mimicking the rounds of his master, who is a priest, but the effect that he has on the patients is the same. It is also quite true that a Catholic priest would find the idea of a dog giving confession to be offensive, as dogs reportedly do not have souls. The god of Catholics puts people on a pedestal above all other animals. However, this does not stop Ray Bradbury from creating a pair of priests who could see the goodness in the dog and the benefit that could be reaped by his company. Of course, Bradbury very well could have intended that this dog be taken as a priest of god, not just a dog spreading happiness and mimicking his master, but that is how I saw it. I saw it as a lesson in the importance of other creatures and in the importance of being humble, no matter how in with god you think you are.

Shelly Barclay

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