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)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

FLEABAGS AND OTHER TALES OF MORAL OPPROBRIUM: Please allow me to preface my remarks here by saying that yes, despite what many people here in our happy little burg will tell you, I really do like dogs. I am fond of dogs in much the same way that I am fond of children. In fact, I actually know people who have both dogs and children and I know them to be among the finest people I have ever met. If I understand their reasoning correctly, having a dog is like having a small child that will never grow up and stick you in a substandard nursing home, whereas having a child is like having a dog that can actually talk to you, even if what they have to say is not very interesting and the passage of time will turn your loquacious toddler into a sullen adolescent snot who will want you to sign off on a student loan you can’t afford because going to the local community college is just too gauche for words. In any case, I have neither dogs nor children, but I think they are good idea for other people. I am all for other people making their own choices and then having to live with them.

What I am not all for is people living in denial about their dogs; living in denial about your kids seems to be all the rage these days and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about that, other than point out that the reason that your little Johnny can’t do this, that, or the other thing may well be because your little Johnny is dumber than a box of wet rocks. But we are talking dogs at the moment. I bring the beasts up because I am committed to the walking lifestyle. I did not know that walking was a lifestyle until recently, when a friend pointed out that while he liked walking as much as the next person, he did not make a point of walking five miles [8.04672 km for those of you on the metric system] every day. I am not sure how my walking this distance every qualifies it as a lifestyle or me as a participant in said lifestyle—walking is just exercise to me—but again, if my friend wants to think that walking is a lifestyle, then more power to him. Walking still just exercise to me; you put one foot in front of the other and if you do it enough times, eventually you get somewhere. I, however, am not the only person here in our happy little burg committed to this lifestyle manqué. From my observation, I can report that there are hordes of walkers trooping the highways and the byways trying to improve their cardiovascular health. Unfortunately, many of these people feel the need to bring their dogs along with them as they walk.

Canis lupus familiaris, the domesticated dog, is the most varied species of mammal on this planet, its variety being the almost exclusive fruit of human genetic interference with the canine genome, but in many ways Canis lupus familiaris differs little from the ultimate root of its species, Canis lupus, the grey wolf, and one of these ways is that dogs, like wolves, are territorial creatures who dislike the idea of anyone trespassing on their territory. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, as there are to all things; Alaskan huskies, I believe, are not territorial at all, the Aleut and the Inuit having bred the trait out of the husky as unnecessary to their needs for the breed, those needs being little more than a knack for pulling heavy loads over long distances through the snow and a willingness to look at backsides all day long, a facility that makes me wonder why I don't see more Alaskan huskies apply for civil service jobs these days. But most other dog breeds are territorial, and their territory extends to wherever their masters happen to be at the moment whether I like it or not, and I usually like it not, a lot of not, veritable scads of not.

I usually like it not because I am of the opinion, and please correct me if I am wrong about this, that as my taxes went into paying for the many fine sidewalks that grace our happy little burg, I may therefore use these sidewalks in a safe, legal, and appropriate manner whenever I choose. I do not need a license to use the sidewalks nor does the Vampire State require such a document or for me to carry pedestrian insurance to cover the hospital costs of my bumping into someone accidentally, although it does occur to me that maybe I should not be giving the malfeasant and altogether peculative crew of feculent two-bit goniffs who run this state any bright ideas. In short, on the sidewalks of our happy little burg I am a free man, a free man using the commons open to all, and it is exactly this state of affairs that dogs refuse to acknowledge and their owners constantly seek to excuse.

Dogs do not accept, much less understand, the legal and constitutional principles raised in the previous paragraph. All dogs know is that I am on the same side of the street as their owners and that means that I had better get out of the way, as in right now, buster, or you’ll be sorry. When this dog, having determined that this sidewalk, a sidewalk that my taxes paid for [I did mention that, didn’t I?] is not big enough for all of us, acts on its determination by barking, snarling, baring its teeth, and generally straining at the leash in an attempt to get close enough to me to take a bite out of one of my legs, the owner of this aggressive pooch will invariably inform me that I have nothing to worry about—the dog is friendly, the dog does not bite, the dog loves people, and that this dog has a warm and fuzzy personality with a heart as big as the great outdoors. I must admit that I find all these alibis intensely fascinating, no two ways about it, as it shows almost better than almost anything else that I can think of, the power of the irrational and cognitive dissonance in the lives of people you would otherwise think of as entirely rational.

Let us look at the facts of the matter here. You, the owner of this dog, claim that your dog is a friendly dog that loves people. Well, I hate to be the one who breaks the news to you, friend, but your mutt’s snapping, growling, tooth-baring, barking, and pulling on the leash in order to get within chomping distance of my legs are not the signs of a dog filled with the milk of canine kindness; they are the signs that your dog has no special regard for any hominid that isn’t you. I would also venture to say that the very tight grip you’re keeping on the leash as your dog goes about snapping, etc., etc., etc., tells me that you don’t believe all that nonsense about your dog being a friendly dog who loves people, either. As for your mangy fleabag having a warm and friendly personality, well, I am sure he does; you say so, after all; and I think you should encourage the beast to bring that personality with him during your sojourns through our happy little burg, because I’ll tell you, pal, the personality your mutt’s got now needs work, a lot of work, and maybe a good-sized dose of tranquilizers as well.

I know that none of these people will actually do this, but I think they’d be better off leaving their dogs at home while they go for their walk. The purpose of walking is to get some exercise, which you are not going to get so long as you stand around waiting for your dog to evacuate its bowels, which is a subject I will get into at some other time. Dog owners are not improving their cardiovascular health when they stop every twenty feet or so the dog can sniff the base of every perpendicular object in the neighborhood. I’m sure that all that sniffing is your pooch’s way of keeping up with the canine Joneses, but you’re not wandering up and down the sidewalks so your dog can pay social calls with his neighbors, you’re trying to become a better and fitter you. So leave the dog at home and walk; you can always take the horrid little beast out later to drop its deuce, and the rest of us pedestrians will be much happier that you did.

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