The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Monday, March 28, 2005

DOGS: Dog owners have an entirely malign psychological influence on their pets these days, I’m afraid. I discovered this bit of psychozoological trivia whilst walking down the main drag of our happy little burg this past Saturday. As I passed one of the seemingly innumerable antique stores popping up along Main Street like freckles on a red head just before the junior prom; stores specializing in the sale of upscale second-hand tchotchkes being one out our burg’s major industries, along with long term incarceration, modern art, and the sandwich trade; the owner’s dog accosted me, baring its teeth and snarling viciously. In the ordinary course of events, a snarling, barking dog would make me back off slowly and say, nice doggy, good doggy, and hope that the dog is not one of those animals trained to immediately attack any person saying, nice doggy, good doggy, but this was not one of those cases. I did back away from the dog, but it was the kind of backing off done when a very ill person rises from their sickbed to take a swing at you; you back off because you don’t want to hurt them.

And so it was with this dog, a small white haired dust mop of an animal obviously suffering from what I believe the French, who should know about this sort of thing, call le folie de grandeur. This is a strange sort of megalomania, a megalomania that causes the sufferer to mistake his or her place in the overall scheme of things and as a result act in ways guaranteed to get themselves stomped on badly. The dog was simply acting the way it always acted; as the pampered pet of an elderly woman it is no doubt accustomed to getting its way in every situation it finds itself in, its yipping and yapping gaining for it the due its outsized canine ego requires from the much put upon humans who form its usual companions. Prolonged exposure to humans, especially humans of the British or American variety can be a dangerous thing for a small dog, as the exposed dog may deduce that since all men are created equal, it must needs follow that all dogs are created equal as well, dogs being a superior species to humans in every category worth enumerating.

I say this because coming up the street towards me was a young man of serious mien, an up and coming local entrepreneur in the always profitable informal pharmaceutical trade, walking that breed of dog officially known in some circles as the Staffordshire terrier and in others as the American pit bull. The dust mop yipped ferociously at the pit bull, which stopped for a moment and looked at the dust mop as if it had gone completely out of its small mind. Then the pit charged and would, no doubt, have destroyed the mop with a single crushing bite had not its owner pulled back hard on the leash. The dust mop, realizing that he had started something that could lead to its swift, if not immediate, demise, scampered into the antique shop to cower behind a display of Hummel figurines, a touching testament to the wholly mistaken belief in the power of china shops to stop bulls. The pit bull, on the other hand, was all for going inside and having it out with the mop; there’s nothing quite as gratifying for some folks as getting into a fight they know they can’t lose and can credibly tell the judge later that it was self-defense, really, your honor, it was, he started the whole thing, no kidding; but the pit’s owner wouldn’t hear of it and so they went on, with the pit looking back every few yards to see if the mop had come back out onto the sidewalk.

One could even imagine the pit planning on how to break free of its master and go for the mop unimpeded by the namby-pamby human concepts of fair play and a fair fight. This sort of utterly literal bloody-mindedness is, of course, is one of the pit bull’s least attractive qualities, and one noticed and commented on by many people, even, to some extent, by the pit bull's many admirers, who otherwise defend their breed with every fiber of their being. I think we all expect them to do this, although even the most rabid defender of the breed will concede, privately and off the record, you understand, that on the whole pit bulls are singularly lacking in that ironic sensibility cultivated in many other dog breeds, such as Border Collies, Dachshunds, and Irish wolfhounds, which would allow them to appreciate the almost absurdist, neo-Beckettian, and Kafkaesque gallows type humor inherent in such a situation.


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