Thursday, June 14, 2012
In The Doghouse
Confession: Indefensible as it is I am not a dog-lover. Is there a word for people like me? Canine-misogynist? Dogophobic? No, I looked it up and my crime is so heinous there is no word to describe me. It's more than criminal, it's faintly subversive.
I could blame it all on my mother, how she had a fear of animals. Fear morphed into indifference with me. I’m not about to pet a pit-bull or even take my chances with Dobermans I don’t know but otherwise I just try to ignore most of them. Chihuahuas, to me, are large insects. Great Danes, small horses. Poodles are too manicured, too manikined, too cute for their own good.
I do have a fondness for Irish setters. Prince Charles cavaliers are soft and furry. Airedales have a certain appeal and dachshunds are sort of adorable. Dalmatians and Labradors are handsome and beagles are the essences of melancholia. But I can live my remaining days without any of them.
In my life Part One I even put up with a dog, a sheltie named Chelsea; a pint-sized collie with the instincts but without the smarts. I think we had her for about five years. If I went into our pool she thought I was a sheep and raced around the perimeter herding me. In the Valley heat Chelsea would exhaust herself to near collapse being obedient to her ancestral genes. After a while I learned to keep her indoors and listen to her persistent barking. She was not my best friend; not even in the top twenty.
I should add that, as an act of redemption, my three daughters all love animals which number seven beloved cats. I doubt if that will get me past heaven’s gate.
I know that seeing-eye and hearing-ear dogs are heroic, that police dogs sniff out drug-smugglers, some even detect land-mines, that lassie was practically human, that dogs do noble deeds in hospices, some fetch newspapers and slippers and Frisbees and yet…. Members of their species also snarl, slobber and smell….even the aforementioned.
Another objection I admit to is the way dog-owners bark at their dogs, shouting orders or reprimands like the parent I never was. I find the superior/inferior relationship disturbing. Civility was something I tried to model without becoming General Patton.
As an apartment-dweller in my early years I never felt deprived. Nor did I ever see the need to defend or even wonder much about the four-legged world. They simply weren’t allowed and now living again in an apartment building for the past 28 years the issue is settled for us.
So why do I feel so defensive about all this? Maybe because dog-loving is one of those behaviors that defines normalcy and I barely qualify as it is. There is also the suspicion that my mother’s legacy lives within me. Not so much a fear but an unwillingness to confront the irrational. Animals cannot easily be reasoned with though I’m reminded how Flannery O’Connor first got into the newspaper by training a chicken to walk backwards. Dogs are probably the most intelligent quadrupeds but there is still, in me, that vestigial reptilian brain I’ve not yet fully embraced.