Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Darwin's Mistake

This may come as quite a surprise to most of you, given the lengths I have gone to decry my objection to such a thing, but I’m not going to sugarcoat it: we now have a dog. Funny thing is, though, that for the first little while when I would admit my lapse in judgment to a friend and tell them not only about the dog’s existence but what type of dog it is, many would reply, “I thought you said you got a dog.” See, the animal in question is a Chihuahua/Terrier mix. Her name is Lola, but she’s not a showgirl nor is she a cross-dressing man who likes to go to clubs in Soho and pick up on other men. She’s still growing; however, at present, she’s bigger than your average rat but still much smaller than a rat you would find roaming the New York City subway system.

Another common response I get is, “My dog could eat your dog for breakfast.” While many of you may be wondering why I’m hanging out with Michael Vick, suffice it to say that I’m not, but I have a number of acquaintances who have canines of a much larger variety like a Boxer or German Shepherd. These are what they like to refer to as “a man’s dog”. I’ve never pinned my proof of masculinity on the pedigree of a dog, but I guess it’s cheaper than buying a Corvette.

Living with a dog has given me a glimpse into the behaviors of that species and caused me to reflect on how we, as humans, have come to accept those behaviors as normal. For example, when Fifi or Baxter is unhappy with something, the dog in question will quite often choose to display his/her dissatisfaction by dropping a steamer on the imported area rug in the living room – no, not the cheap one from Ikea in the family room. We’re none too happy with this “outburst”, but we quickly shrug it off by cursing (a singularly human behavior) and muttering under our breath, “What do you expect? It’s a dog.” Nor do we find it altogether odd that the family dog goes around the perimeter of the house and pees everywhere to mark their territory. (This one may be less due to our simply accepting this canine proclivity as a given and more because we’ve had young boys full of orange juice and soda – far beyond potty-training years – let it fly all over the bathroom and hit everything but the water in the bowl. Maybe that’s just my house.) At any rate, we believe these behaviors are what separate us from dogs.

Unfortunately, these are not the things that separate us but point to our similarities. For example, when a politician gets caught breaking the law, he or she does the same thing to the nation’s area rug, the Constitution, by getting off with a mere slap on the wrist. And we wring our hands, curse a little, and mutter under our breath, “What do you expect? It’s a politician.” Some sports stars, rather than for the love of the game but for the love of the glory, get full of juice and then let it fly all over the field of play to leave their mark. More often than not, we just want to watch.

My wife tells me that we need to take Lola to Obedience School to break her of some of her nasty habits. I’m all for that, but I’m a little sketchy on the cost of this whole affair and just exactly what it will yield. Having our dog learn how to sit, stay, and roll over is fine and dandy, but it would be more worthwhile if we could teach her how to mow the lawn and take over the driving on long road trips. On second thought, driving seems to bring out the cursing and we want to preserve that trait for us humans – perhaps the only thing truly separating us from dogs.

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