Posted by on Mar 21, 2009 in Palaver |


Second in a 3-part series

Part 1 of this overlong post addressed the modern method of procuring a family dog – and found it wanting.

Once you get the dog home, things get worse. Again, my point of comparison is the 1960s and 1970s, before the ninnies and the nannies took over.

Back then, once you got the mutt (and indeed it was a mutt) home and purchased a 40-pound sack of Puppy Chow, your work was nearly done. Sure, when you first tried to shut your pup in the garage or basement overnight, you had to plug your ears with toilet paper in a futile effort to get some ever-loving sleep over the whining. But that problem was solved when the kids sneaked the grateful little guy out of the dark and into their room – where he promptly piddled.

Ah yes, the piddling and the pooping. Chasing the dog around with a rolled-up newspaper occupied a week or two, but once he was housebroken, an all-American mutt’s training was over.

Train a dog? What for? In all but the worst weather, everybody simply let their mutts out the kitchen door each morning so they could commence their canine patrol. They did their business, prowled here and there, found romance, chased cats, maybe tipped over a garbage can or two. Essentially, dogs were allowed to vanish for hours – as were kids – and that worked out fine most of the time.

Which is not to say every time (thus creating an opening for the ninnies and the nannies, on whom more later). A roaming dog is a dog at risk (gasp!). We had a pup named Porky who was a relentless chewer. When he devoured a neighbor’s $35 golf shoes – those were seriously expensive kicks in 1968 – my dad was forced to take him to that beautiful farm reserved for unruly mutts.

And then there was Violet, a sweet little mutt who could and did run all day. She was killed by a car when I was 12; my mother and I got a very concrete lesson on the meaning of “dead weight” when we put her on a bedspread and dragged her up the driveway, tears rolling.

By contrast, between the web research and the electric fences and the Science Diets and the eye-roll-inducing obedience schools that mark dog ownership today, it’s a wonder all the pampered purebreds don’t live to be 40. In human years, that is.

I wonder if the leading cause of death among today’s suburban dogs is sheer boredom. Six AM walk, poop, watch the human pick up the poop, head home for 4.4 ounces of bio-engineered food, then it’s into the cage for five or six hours until the kids get home from school. Yawn.

For God’s sake, you want to tell these poor dogs, bust a move! Chase a squirrel! Sniff out a pile of another dog’s feces and roll in it! Find something, anything, and hump it or chew it!

That’s what I want: a humping, chewing, drooling, free-running, not-especially-bright, tongue-hanging mutt.

In the third and final part of this screed, I’ll discuss the ninnies and the nannies as well as the stuff that got me thinking along these lines in the first place: dog poop. Which adds another dimension to the idea of waiting with bated breath, eh?