Between 32,000 and 18,000 years ago, a transformation occurred that would have a profound impact on all human life. From that time forward, all days became dog days, as wolf genes became dog flesh and dwelt among us.
Whether we wanted it or not, the dog would become our best friend. It would infiltrate almost half of all U.S. households, generate a $15 billion-a-year dog food industry and create a Facebook celebrity out of a pit bull who ripped off the face of a 4-year-old in Phoenix.
Lest you get the wrong idea, I don’t hate dogs or wish them any harm. In our society, being a dog hater is almost as bad as being a child hater. And though having neither dogs nor children in my household, I have learned to tolerate both.
I have met some very nice dogs as well as dog owners. As a group, they seldom bark at 3 a.m., never salivate and jump all over you, and never snap and snarl at innocent pedestrians. The very nicest ones never show themselves at all, in fact.
In this world, one is either a dog person or not. Those of us who are not are often made to feel socially abnormal. If you don’t own a dog, at least one, wrote Roger Caras, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.
And all these years I’ve been thinking it had more to do with the fact that I lacked the proper social graces or a BMW.
Even some of my favorite authors have added to this word poop. Farley Mowat, in his book “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be,” which sounds promising, tells the story of the young author and the dog who owned him in his youth. Farley is much better when writing about the dog’s ancestors in his book “Never Cry Wolf.” I’ll take a dog that chases caribou rather than cars or people any day.
In his essay “The Trouble With Dogs,” however, Joseph Hickes summed it up perfectly. The trouble, he wrote, is that they think they’re people.
And little wonder, when people think dogs are people. That was the whole point of domesticating them, wasn’t it? To turn these sociable, territorial fellow predators into perfect images of ourselves, so that none of us would ever have to feel lonely again.
Though I sometimes feel lonely, it is not for want of other people or dogs that act like people. Every time I step out my front door I am reminded of what a dog-meet-dog world this is. Wherever I walk, there is always a dog or pack of dogs at my heels, as if intent on selling me the idea of dog ownership. I try to keep in mind that each one of these precious darlings, sitting on the hearth rug of almost every home I pass, is therein treated like a member of the family. Often, they are brought home with as much loving adoration as a newborn child from the hospital. But, unlike the child, they are then given complete run of the house and neighborhood, after having received scant more training than a goldfish.
So the next time you’re walking down the street, minding your own business, and a pint-sized poodle comes up and desecrates your shoes, or a pit bull decides to terminate your existence, please don’t blame the poor dog. After all, it was created in your image.