Thursday, February 03, 2005

Dog Daze

Full disclosure: With some guilt, I admit that I am not a dog lover. So the following has left me both musing and wary:

The president of our local civic association recently pointed out that the 2000 census had revealed that our neighborhood had the highest population of dogs in the county. This bit of information has emboldened dog owners to organize doggie gatherings via e-mail in the local park. (This in a community that has become known for its rabid fights over dog parks vs. people parks--green space is scarce here.) For example, the past Halloween, dog owners announced a doggie party in the park. Imagining hundreds of barking dogs tricked out in plastic masks and nylon costumes--is it a pit bull or is that just a mask?-- I declined the magnanimous invitation, recognizing it as a throw away gesture extended to local humans for the illusion of being “inclusive.”

The whole shaggy business brought to mind the time that I ran into a school acquaintance who had married her childhood sweetheart and was now pursuing a law degree. We met up unexpectedly at a diy copy machine in bookstore near the campus. “Yes, no children yet. But we have a dog,” she volunteered. Apparently a stratagem to staunch all further talk on the subject of progeny. I, being unmarried, only felt it a bit of a non sequitur, and we prattled on about mutually known family members.

Predictably, (she always was a smart gal) now she is a high-powered lawyer living in a mansion in a tiny hunt-country-like suburb 20 miles from her big city offices, and I hear they have at least one child. But what about the dog, I wonder?

I wasn’t sure, but smarter minds than mine have done a little extrapolation. P.D. James’ novel, The Children of Men tells the tale of how in the not-too-distant-future, the contraceptive mentality of the good people of England has reduced the dog-loving Brits to oohing and ahhing over Fido in a pram, all dolled (or dogged?) up in infant’s clothes. There are no more children being born in England! A Jamesian fantasy, you say? Read on about what’s happening over here.

In a certain office in a certain city, 20-something and 30-something marrieds and unmarrieds have recently succumbed to kind of dog buying frenzy. One newlywed couple, who had talked briefly about children in the early months, bought a little dog instead. A year later, they are divorced. He got the dog. Another young couple, bought a collie, and had to yank out the carpet of their brand new townhome when the dog developed a variety of allergies--all of them rather hard to pin down. Allergic to what was uncertain, but the vet at least is benefiting. Final outcome: time to buy an additional dog as a companion--one for him, one for her. Co-workers left and right, were becoming new dog owners and trading stories about the sleepless night with puppy, worried calls to the vet, and cooing over doggie pictures on screen saver and cubicle, as if the dogs were, well, human children.

What can a non-dog owner do, but smile and say “How cute!”? In an effort to get to the bottom of my dogged indifference, I made a quick list of nearly every dog that I have ever known, in the hope of arriving at some grand insight.

Charlie: A skinny, white short-haired dog with brown spots, that raced around the front yard. “Charlie! Charlie! Get back here!” yelled the Reilly children as the dog tore across their front yard. Mischievous Charlie never listened.

The Yapping Terrier: The ferocious guard dog one tricycled past very quickly. Unless you were Irene, who would walk up to the gate and give it a good shake to fully activate the dog.

The Dalmatian: A cool, taut dog with odd eyes. Even as a 7-year-old, I noted how the owner held on to its leash.

Max: A golden retriever of Aunt Helen--the first dog I liked.

Polar: The dog-next-door, later childhood. A Great Pyranees needing much combing and pooper scooping. Dogs demand responsibility.

Sergeant: A toy poodle. Very affectionate, but a little tongue goes a long way.

Sasha: An Akita. One smart dog, and big!

Bones: My sister’s dog, loving and sloppy.

Colby: Her next dog, a much beloved black lab.

Shadow: Her current dog, also black. Scared the dickens out of my four-year-old son--a dog lover in potentia.

Happy: No idea of the breed. Small and furry--and appropriately named. I learned that dogs must be walked--even at night.

The Chocolate Lab: A housemate was dog-sitting. This lab was a dog I could love!

In Peking: No dogs noted, except as ancient statuary. Apparently, Communism has no room for dogs.

On Hampstead Heath: Rather too many sleek whippets and other racing dogs. It’s
, P.D.!

My own neighborhood: A dog in every house--except ours, it seems.

It’s a limited list, I admit--perhaps an indication of my rather circumscribed life. So I can only offer my limited insights.

To those who have persevered to the end of this account, I ask whether you can offer some stories of canine heroism or humor that might endear me to the animal race that I fear is on the ascendancy in my town.

When the re-education camps get set up, Dear Reader, I want to be ready!


Blogger Gone Away said...

It's one of those things you either understand or you don't. All I can say in mitigation is that there are dogs and then there are dogs. I know: it doesn't help much...

2/03/2005 02:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Red Clinkers here. I'm both a dog-hater and cat-lover, but the former condition arises mainly from dog-lovers' behavior, whereas the latter is due to the animal itself. There have been dogs I liked: that Sasha, for one, and the now-dead Pomeranian of Tom R's wife, so I am capable of defying my inclination and warming up to the things on a case-by-case basis, but BC, I think there's nothing that can or should be done to conform yourself to the dominant (dominating) majority. Doggone hegemony. Resist!

2/03/2005 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Remainderman said...

Here, here. Like tetherball, dogs are central to the whole human thing -- only more people [non-dogs] are aware of this.

In fact, your normally reticent Commentator takes this as a deliberate provocation -- a brick, if you will, heaved by Clinkers. We warn you, this may call for us to em-bark on an elaborate, Sirius response.

(On the other hand, we can recommend a movie called "Best In Show" for a saucy, hilarious look at dog-owners, including a wealthy, indulgent, dysfunctional young couple with a Weimaraner.)

Even so, we will not roll over & play dead.

2/03/2005 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, what's the whole China-England thing going on here and Hereunder? Is this some sort of Boxer thing? Or, am I just sounding like a Shih-Tzu?

2/03/2005 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

What a load of pit bull...

2/03/2005 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Remainderman said...

Notwithstanding the good read of "Children of Men", having a dog with redeeming qualities does change your disposition -- not as much as having children, but to a degree.

Moreover, "even the dogs get scraps from their master's table."

2/03/2005 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

If people spent half the resources on the needy that they do on animals, there would be far less hunger in the world.

2/04/2005 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Clinkers said...

I've noticed a singular lack of real dog stories behind readers' well-intentioned comments. Perhaps Lassie was a Hollywood fiction after all?

2/04/2005 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Ever ready to oblige, I supply the following:

A knight was riding through a deep, dark forest one day when the his trusty steed tripped over a branch, fell awkwardly and broke his neck. The animal died quite soon after this event. Now on foot (and encumbered by his late model, fully rust-proofed, self-lubricating armor), the knight continued his journey on foot.

Night fell on the knight and it became very dark, this resulting in said knight losing his way. As he staggered on he bethought to himself: This is no good. I must either find a place where I can purchase another form of transport or I am like to perish in this here deep and dark forest.

At that moment, he espied a light far off and began to make his way towards it. Very soon, it became apparent that this light issued from the window of an inn at the very center of the forest. Our friendly knight marched up to the front door and commenced to beat upon it with his mailed fist.

The innkeeper came to the door and enquired as to how he might be of service. The knight explained his predicament and asked if he might purchase a horse. The innkeeper was very apologetic and admitted that he was fresh out of horses.

"There is, however....." The innkeeper trailed off, his brow knitted in studious pondering.

"What, what?" enquired the knight.

"Well, I do have this dog, you see," explained the worthy innkeeper. "It is a very big dog, no, I really couldn't."

"Please, please." begged the knight, "'tis my only chance to reach (insert spurious name of some town here) tonight."

"You don't understand," replied the innkeeper, "this dog is, well, it's very, umm, how can I say it...?"

"I don't care. Anything will do as long as it can carry me out of this terrible forest." The knight was truly desperate by now (as, I imagine, are you).

"It's like this sir. You see this dog is so awful, he smells like unto a garbage dump and his teeth are yellowed and rotten with the fair maids that he has chomped."

"No problem," quoth the knight, "Many are the dogs that I have known who are indeed similarly inflicted. I must have this beast."

"No," said the innkeeper with final resolve (at last). "There is just no way I could send a knight out on a dog like this."

2/04/2005 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Dear me, my editorial skills have deserted me this fair morn. That should be "afflicted", of course, and not "inflicted".

2/04/2005 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Clinkers said...

Thanks, Gone Away. I'm afraid that one will be hard to top. But you know . . .

2/04/2005 01:54:00 PM  
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