The other day I saw a video of a Chihuahua herding a small flock of sheep. He was good at it, really imposing his will on the large woolly beasties even though he himself was barely visible amidst the tufts of tall grass.
Maybe we should be more open to the versatility of dogs, more encouraging of their full potential. Snoopy-doo, you can do anything you set your mind to in this great land of opportunity.
For example, maybe your St. Bernard would make a great duck retriever. He’s probably pretty buoyant, although when he came back to shore and shook himself off, you’d get so drenched you might as well wade in for the next duck yourself.
And maybe Pomeranians are cut out to be vicious attack dogs. I can just imagine them first ripping apart an intruder’s socks and making a mess of his shoes, then trashing his reputation amongst themselves later: “Did you see that tacky skull tattoo on his neck? Pulleeeze! I think the guy’s been playing too much Grand Theft Auto.”
We talk about expanding human potential and developing our full talents as people, but we don’t expect that much of our dogs. If you’re a dog, your only option is obedience school and you’re usually forced to go into the family business. You’re either a hunting dog or a guard dog or a lap dog, and that’s the way it is.
We teach dogs all kinds of trans-species skills, like skateboarding and surfing, but assume they can’t learn skills across breeds. Where’s the logic in that? Talk about profiling.
Too bad our standards of beauty for people are more narrow-minded than our standards of beauty for dogs. If the Miss America contest was more like a dog show, contestants could win even without a good plastic surgeon on staff. Myriad kinds of beauty might be recognized — the most alluringly Rubinesque, the most majestically mature, the most fashionably lithe. After all, there are actually dog shows for mutts, mixes, and mongrels these days.
And sadly, even our political campaigns are akin to beauty pageants. Larry David complains that a Muslim will be elected President of the U.S. before a bald man ever will. Probably true but, Larry, where’s your “can do” spirit? Somewhere right now, I’m sure a father with a bad comb-over is reminding his son, “Junior, even you can one day be President here in this great land of opportunity… and hair transplants.” And, maybe a nose job and some liposuction while we’re at it? No wonder our political leaders are so beholden to the medical industry.
We love all dog people, of course, but it must be admitted that some go a bit over the top. Here are some “tell tail” signs that you’re beginning to slip into mongrel-mania:
- You send out a Christmas photo of your dogs dressed as characters from the Nativity story. (Hopefully, some of them are German Shepherds.)
- You teach your child self-control by putting a Gummy Bear on his nose and telling him to wait for your command.
- You scratch the top of your boyfriend’s head and tell him, “I wuv you, silly boy! Yesh! Yes, I dooooo!”
- You buy shag carpet the same color as your shaggy dog so you won’t have to vacuum as often.
- You’ve tasted the dog cookies at your local pet emporium and decided that they’re not all that bad.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: It seems the defining work of the Russian behaviorist Ivan Pavlov could not be published until he figured out why one of his dogs never salivated when he rang that famous bell, but instead walked over to the corner of the room and simply sat down. Then one day he realized that this particular dog was a Boxer.
Herb Canine is one of writer/musician Tad Toomay’s many alter egos. Get acquainted with the others at www.tadtoomay.com.