Dog lovers, take warning. This blog may not be suitable for all readers. The “going to the dogs” thing in this case is a literal fact, not a metaphor for cultural and economic decline. I am talking real barking, biting, unpleasant canines. In the neighborhood where I live, I’m surrounded – great dogs, small dogs, lean dogs, brawny dogs. Actually that’s Browning describing the rats that overran Hamelin, but the situation here is the same.
To the left of me a baying wolf or perhaps German Shepherd, across the road a shrill bit of fluff, a couple doors down a curly-haired, high strung neurotic yapper, to the right a trio of self-reinforcing mutts, around the corner some sort of basso mastiffs. Set any one off and the noise pollution ripples outward.
Go for a walk, they run you off the sidewalk. Walk in the street, they charge at you, teeth bared. Pass a fenced yard, they stop your heart by clanging into the cyclone weave an inch from your flesh. Step anywhere and encounter their poop, generously deposited with the acquiescence of their owners who have apparently decided they have enough at home and are willing to share the bounty. In short, ill-bred, disgusting, noisy, selfish and impolite. And I haven’t even gotten around to their dogs.
The less you like dogs, the more they like you. If they aren’t bad-tempered bullies, they are eager-to–please suck-ups. In either case, attractive. They want to sniff you, rub against you, slobber on you, lick you. In the immortal words of Lucy, “Ugh! I have dog germs! Get some hot water, iodine, disinfectant.”
As movie stars they are completely lame. Lassie, Rinty, Lady and the Tramp, Scooby Doo, Goofy, Pluto, Deputy Dawg? You must be kidding. Often they are dimwitted, slavering villains like Spike, which is at least realistic. The brilliant ones – Brain, Snoopy, Mr. Peabody – are obviously nothing like a dog. The animal heroes are rarely them, but mice, ducks, rabbits, roadrunners. Nine out of ten participants in Stupid Pet Tricks? Dogs.
The engulfing of America by dogs is not a delusion on my part. The pet industry reports the number of dogs per capita is at the highest level in the history of record keeping. There is one dog for every four people. We have more dogs per capita than any nation on earth. Let’s hear it! We’re Number One! USA Bowwowwow.
The 78 million dogs in the country reside in 57 million out of 117 million households. In other words, there’s a dog in every other house as you walk down the street. They are more likely to be owned by married people than singles and by younger people than old.
This points to a possible conclusion. When I was young, dogs were much less in evidence. A few people in my hometown had them but they were sometimes regarded as only a few steps from the farm so maybe didn’t know any better. What’s changed? For one thing, during the height of the baby boom, what people had was kids. Now younger married people seem to be having dogs instead. Is this an improvement?
Economically, it looks like a dead loss. Yes, the kids were expensive, but dogs are far from cheap. And with any luck the kids grow up to be able to converse rationally, get a job, contribute to GDP, pay for our Social Security. Some even invent the iPad or Punk Rock. Almost all are eventually potty-trained.
What do dogs contribute? Zip. They are all expense and no payoff. They eat enough to feed several nations. While 40 million Americans have no health care, they have vets. Some have hair dressers. They can boast of no patents or copyrights and do not improve the balance of trade. On a farm, they made sense. For a hunter, they are a tool. In a city or suburb they are an anachronism without function. As guard dogs they are unreliable and cost far more per annum than an alarm system.
I realize I’m on the losing side of this argument, but apparently the half of the households that are dogless agree with me. Instead of sorting ourselves into red states and blue states as seems to be happening, maybe we should designate some as dog states and others as dog free zones. I’m prepared to relocate if this commonsense measure is approved by Congress.
With deep apologies to my friend and neighbor, Reader Number One, who I like unreservedly but about whose dog I have, alas, a reservation or two.