(First paragraph to be read in a disbelieving Jerry Seinfeld voice) What’s the deal with dogs? They’re not family pets anymore. They’re more like cultural accessories their owners wear like Fitbits or tattoos. Except these tattoos bark, pee and hump. People have a right to self-expression, but couldn’t they express themselves without sniffing my crotch – and from behind while I’m in a checkout line. I mean who’s checking out who here? I don’t think the 2nd Amendment says anything about the right to bear dogs.
We Hold These Truths to be Self-evident
We all understand that dogs are man’s best friend. They’re loyal, companionable and mercifully uncomplicated. Their presence reminds us of who we’d all like to be – in the moment and unaware of consequences. Their job is to sit around and wait for our next great idea. And talk about exuding unconditional love – dogs do that in spades (and sometimes other suits). Dogs are playing with a full deck. Who isn’t enriched by the boundless enthusiasm for life dogs so heartily radiate? But there is such thing as too much of a good thing. And based on my sampling, I think we’ve reached that tipping point.
August 26th has been set aside as National Dog Day. Now every dog truly does have its day. We’ve grown too dog-centric. Dogs belong at home or at a dog park or in a car anxiously looking out the window, believing they’ve been abandoned again, for the 437th time. You’d think by the 436th time they’d get it. Dogs don’t have to be seamlessly incorporated into the lifestyle of their owner, but they permeate everything now – like bad cologne. Isn’t going bye-bye enough for these canines. Do they have to be in the delivery room too? – “Breathe honey. It’s going to be OK. Now come over here Daisy girl and lick mommy’s face. Oh, this will make an epic Instagram post.”
While doing empirical research for this essay (cough, cough) I observed a guy take his dog into a public restroom stall. And after doing his duty (the guy, not the dog) I wondered if the dog thought “Hmmm, we put my poop in a bag and carry it around, his must not be so special.” I think about what dogs think about, more than your average bear. The larger point being, I don’t need Corky, the gassy Cocker Spaniel, sitting next to me in my dentist’s chair to feel secure or calm. No I don’t, but apparently Sheila does in order to overcome her fear of spit sinks. Don’t worry Sheila. The nice hygienist lady only wants to floss you, not strangle you. But Sheila’s inner dialogue tells a different story: “The cavities…they’re coming from inside my head. Run Sheila, run.” And then Sheila looks down at Corky and it’s all better.
Service dogs I get. But they’re more for assisting disabled people or wounded veterans. Service dogs often wear those special vests saying “Please ask before petting me.” I once had a girlfriend who wore a similar vest. I tolerated it though because she was so fetching. But if you need the reassuring countenance of a Golden Retriever to steady your nerves while you buy mascara at Walgreens, maybe the cosmetics counter at Amazon.com is a better option. Service dogs are so stressed-out now from the demands of constant servicing, that some of them come equipped their own “service gerbils” just to keep them calm. And some of these service gerbils wear little vests reading “Please ask before…” I’ll just leave it at that.
A Tall Tail
Allow me to illustrate the trendy ubiquity of dogs with Home Depot as a backdrop. On a recent visit there I was witness to the usual sights:
- Inside: The distressed bird trapped up near the ceiling, flitting from rafter to rafter, looking desperately for a way out. I mean we’ve come to expect that now in Home Depots or at airport terminals. In fact, I’ve heard that in the absence of real birds, HD has a ready squadron of drone birds perched above the Lumber aisle, poised to take flight, just to meet customer expectation.
- Outside: The overburdened mini-pickup with 3 hefty landscapers in the front seat. Their beefy bodies so brawny that the outboard riders had to stick their right and left arms out of the windows just so they could wedge themselves into the tiny cockpit of this Matchbox truck. And as this underpowered, 4-cylinder wheelbarrow limps away sagging under the weight of 40 bags of topsoil in its tiny bed, I think to myself: If there was one more bag of topsoil in the bed or one fewer landscaper in the cab, the front wheels of this Tonka truck would be airborne.
- Houdini of the Hardware: And then of course there’s always the routine disappearance of HD’s orange-aproned employees who magically evaporate whenever you need help finding a shank washer in the Plumbing Dept.
These routine sights were at once familiar and reassuring. But what wasn’t so reassuring was the eerie prevalence of dogs that sultry afternoon. What were once the dog days of summer have become the dog days of winter, spring, summer and fall. They’re everywhere now (the dogs and not the seasons). At this HD there was a steady parade of motley mutts crisscrossing the aisles in what looked more like a canine flash mob than a random trip down the electrical aisle in search of a 4-gang switch plate. Where did all these pooches come from on this Dog Day Afternoon? Why were they all here and, more importantly, whose idea was it to go to Home Depot in the first place? – the dogs. Dogs are starting to reconfigure society by bending our will to theirs. How else would you explain the government’s plan to install doggy doors in the wall between the United States and Mexico?
So what was supposed to be a quick trip to HD to get some keys cut, turned into The Parade of Dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club Show and no keys cut. There they were, strutting in all their canine splendor: Golden Retrievers, Chocolate Labs and Vanilla Huskies – was this a Home Depot or had Baskin-Robbins opened a pet store? I wasted so much time gawking at these dogs, it started to get late and I had to leave HD without getting my keys cut. I didn’t have to leave, but because of dog-influenced behaviors, my wife keeps me on a short leash and unthinkingly I comply.
It’s the Dogs’ World. We Just Live In It.
In areas of the Deep North (as opposed to the Deep South I guess), dogs now predominate the power structure. This is especially true in International Falls, MN where I’ve excerpted a testimonial from a once prominent citizen of the town who is now a very compliant beta-male. Let’s just call him Bailey. This screenshot was taken from Bailey’s Facebook page before it was taken down by some Doberman Censors.
If you exclude George Hamilton skin tone, we’re a long way from the Bronze Age (there’s a joke about as old as the Bronze age). Back then dogs ran in wild packs until they found they got a better deal by becoming camp followers of the up and coming hominids (evidently proto-man was quite profligate with their table scraps – even though they didn’t have any tables). And before you could say “Ken-L-Ration Burger time” dogs had become domesticated. And now, through a secretive canine-sponsored reverse-engineering program called Operation: Who’s a Good Human, Well Yes You Are!, dogs have begun domesticating us. It’s gone so far that we can no longer tell where we end and our new quadruped overlords begin. The world has gone to the dogs. It’s Planet of the Dogs here in I.F. MN.
Dogs’ alpha status began subtly enough: Fire hydrants, hooked up to nothing, began appearing out in the middle of fields. Mobile dog grooming services started offering “happy endings” and all cars became equipped with four on the floor – unless one of the dogs got lucky; and then it was 6 on the floor. Our police force here is now run by the same German Shepherds who used to be in the K-9 Unit. They were thoughtful enough to create a K-Man Unit of ex-cops who are trained to chase and attack anything they’re pointed towards. Nowadays we humans don’t even notice our beta status. We just accept it. The other day my owner-dog Rommel told me I had to go see the doctor. And I ran and hid till he collared me and made me hop up into the cargo area of his Suburban. Oh how I howled. The video went viral and now I’m a very popular virus. I’d better go now. Rommel is looking over my shoulder disapprovingly and growling while I type this.
Are We Humans About to Go Bye-Bye?
And as the sun begins to set on us humans, it feels like we’re finally getting in the Zone. Unfortunately it’s the Twilight Zone and I blame myself for this bizarre turn of events, for it was me who let the dogs out.
♫Who? Who? Who? Who? Who let the dogs out?♫
I did. And the world will never be the same.