So there I was walking along, minding my own business, and recounting all of the injustices that have been inflicted upon me since the age of eight by a cold, cruel world, when suddenly I was surrounded by dog people. Directly in front of me came a tall man with a white goatee, Australian bush hat, and walking stick. A woman with long, dark hair accompanied him. They were walking a Dobermann. I recognized them from earlier encounters in the neighborhood.
Across the street a young couple in San Francisco Giants caps ambled along with a Golden Retriever and a stroller. At the same time, a dude on a bike came up fast behind me with a midsized mutt on a leash. Racing beside his owner, the dog appeared ecstatic. I imagined it was because he had escaped certain death at the pound and knew it. I would be ecstatic, too.
I can’t say every day is like this, since I don’t go walking every day. I also don’t walk for the fun of it but to get to work, which is about three miles away. So, walking for me has a purpose beyond burning calories or letting the family pooch take a dump on a nicely trimmed lawn. I don’t feel superior to dog people because of this, but I take pity on them for having to scoop up their pets’ excrement and carry it around in little plastic bags the color of crossing guard vests for all the world to see, including crossing guards. I wonder with Nietzsche about who’s really in charge here–master or slave?
It’s also not as if these packs of dog people appear every hour of every day. Generally, they’re out from 7:00 to 10:00 in the morning and 4:00 to 8:00 in the evening. It just so happens that’s when I am most likely to be out and about, walking shoes and all (i.e., Vans). Now that I think of it, maybe the best solution is for the city to create non-dog walking lanes for people like me. That would keep the dog poop in restricted areas. Of course, that wouldn’t work everywhere. I’m thinking of my old neighborhood in the Bronx for one.
I know what you’re thinking. Does this guy not like dogs? Is he a communist? Let me state for the record that (1) I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the Communist Party, and (2) while I can’t say right off the bat that I love dogs, I can say that I like them and might even love one if I got to know him beyond picking up his crap.
In any event, the used car analogy works this way. When buying or selling a used car, many customers point to the Kelley Blue Book as the final word on a car’s worth. The problem is that the blue book doesn’t tell you the value of your car, which is to say its history and how you’ve driven it over the years. It simply gives you the Platonic ideal, for instance, of a 2010 Honda Accord. It doesn’t say anything about your Accord. And, depending on how you drive, you may be thankful for that.
Imagine the same thing with dogs. How can I love Boston terriers if I’ve never taken one to piss on every tree on both sides of the street? The dog, I mean. So, while I like dogs, I can’t say with certainty that I love them, especially since they often take on the character of their owners (read neurotic here). And I’m not about to get to know the owner, unless I have my eye on someone at the dog park down the street. That reminds me of my college girlfriend’s uncle who was a priest and rode around on a motorcycle with his sheepdog sitting behind him in a milk crate. Now, that was cool.
The truth is, I’d gladly join the dog people if I lived somewhere else. But I can’t have pets at my apartment and don’t have time to fulfill another creature’s needs. If that sounds harsh, consider this. The last time I had a dog–a hyperactive Catahoula–she got so anxiety-ridden because of tension in the house that she chewed everything she could get her paws on. Thankfully, that relationship, along with the Catahoula, is long gone, but the lesson remains. To wit, let sleeping dogs lie, especially when you’re the one who has to clean up.
Image credits: feature by Anna Deli; dogs on leash by freestocks. To start off the New Year right, get your copy of The Gringo (2011), Laura Fedora (2014), and Nine Lives (2016) here. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”