This Isn’t Kansas, Toto


When I was a little boy, my father would occasionally bring home a puppy that someone was trying to get rid of. The dog would spend a few days with us, tire my parents with its continual rug-soiling, and eventually wear out its welcome. My father would take it away. I never knew where he took them. 

My parents wanted a puppy to be a paper-trained little playmate for me, I think. But before the puppy had figured out where to poop, it was too late. Dad would keep bringing home puppies, hoping one of them would work out. None ever did.

Ever since, I’ve been trying to figure out the role dogs play in the society of humans.

To many Americans, “all dogs go to heaven.” To Muslims, they can be unclean beasts. To the Chinese of Yulin they are Sunday afternoon barbecue.

You know what it is about dogs? They go along. They’re content to be whatever you want them to be.

They are the tabula rasa of our lives—the blank slate on which we can project our expectations. To childless couples, dogs are surrogate children. To the lonesome, they are constant companions. To the unsighted, they are indispensable guides.

What’s odd is that dogs have their dark side: if they don’t like you, they bite you. We humans have even named a couple of our teeth after them—canines. Yet, they manage to ingratiate themselves. They insinuate themselves into our beds, are allowed to lick our ice cream cones, induce us to take them for walks.

Maybe this is why dog owners are now referred to by dog food marketers as “parents.”

Dogs even have their own TV channel. Sort of a Sesame Street for pooches. Here’s their 30-second TV spot: Dog Channel.

Without paid lobbyists of their own, dogs have managed to have August 26 touted as National Dog Day.

Its website suggests 20 ways to celebrate your dog. My favorites:

  • Order a dog-shaped flower arrangement from 1-800-Flowers
  • Throw a National Dog Day party for your friends and their dogs
  • Give your dog a massage or holistic spa treatment

Don’t get me wrong. I pay tribute to dogs that are put to useful work each day—in law enforcement, for a child who is disabled, to comfort the elderly.

All of which adds credence to my idea that a dog is whatever you want it to be.

Arthur Conan Doyle seems to agree with my theory. In The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, he writes:

Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones.

In my next blog, “The Corporate Assault on Architecture”

 Read my newest book, Fat Guy in a Fat Boat, in print or Kindle from Amazon:

Also available is my e-book, A Light from Within, about the small moments of our lives that seem commonplace until they are examined under a creative lens.


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.