Once dogs lived, apparently quite happily, on meatballs and spaghetti or meatloaf or whatever leftovers were left over. They were only admitted inside the house on special occasions, such as nights we wrapped the pipes under the house so they wouldn't freeze up.
And when it came time to die, Uncle Charlie showed up to take Rover for a 'ride.' No hip-replacement surgery, no veterinary acupuncture, no chemo.
That was then and this is now and now is $897 dog beds, 'Bring Your Dog to Work' days, and bottled water replacing toilet water.
Dogs have struggled mightily to make the human 'cute' list and have largely succeeded, although many would question the eligibility of breeds like the pug and the Neapolitan mastiff. Flattery played a major role in this advancement. Who says flattery will get you nowhere? Dogs have proven otherwise. They are flatterers of the most dangerous kind, for they are sincere. Being narrow minded, dogs easily fixate on one object, and more and more people have learned that standing in front of a dog house with a sack of Puppy Chow guarantees worship.
And because dogs worship us, we have to elevate them. Since more of us are not reproducing our own kind, we have to turn these four-footed companions of crypto-humans, creatures rational enough to appreciate our excellences.
Nowadays, not only is the doggie allowed in the room, but -- absent some French-speaking, piano-playing, 6-year-old prodigy -- must be the absolute center of attention in that room for the next 70 or 80 minutes. 'On that very sofa where you're sitting, I found a bone he buried last summer.' 'Her coat has taken on that sheen since we added egg whites and ginkgo biloba to her diet.' 'Do you like her tweed collar and skirt? I have one just like it.' And we are supposed to sit there, nodding in mock astonishment through drinks until we are finally ushered outside to see the family daffodils fluttering in the winds of April. Of course, we have to wait till the dog has put on his cashmere sweater because he catches cold quite easily.
In the garden, we are required to witness the latest and greatest of pet tricks, like pushing a bowling ball around the lawn with his nose or fetching a shuttlecock in mid-flight. You must express delighted surprise with each trick, even though I was only once delighted by a dog trick. A ganja smoker pal had a half-Shepherd who sat with imploring eyes as the bong went 'round. As each cloud of smoke was released in the air, the half-Shepherd would snap at it until his lungs filled. Great dog, but he deeply craved -- and was daily supplied with -- bite-sized Snickers bars and later succumbed to chocolate poisoning.
By now, many of you caninephiles are doubtless purring, 'What about cats? Why have they escaped your scorn?'
Cats introduce a note of tranquility into any room they occupy for more than four minutes; a dog will remove that note in an even less time. Dogs live on the edge. And as time speeds up, we humans are in danger of overheating our nervous systems until they approach Dog Tempo. Which is to say that of a coked-up astronaut. Think a cross between a Jack Russell terrier and a Yorkie.
The only break in this life lived at the speed of a silent movie comes during frequent siestas. Dogs can fall asleep anywhere and anytime; they can do this because, as you well know, sleep comes easiest when the mind is blank. You may protest that cats also fall asleep easily, but cats are only being deceitful. Dogs are no deceitful, which requires cleverness. And cats don't require walking ...
I have this recurring vision of people with knobby knees following a leashed quadruped around with a little plastic excrement bag in hand. I have nothing against little plastic excrements bags in theory or practice; I think Congressional aides should carry them on the job. It's just that I see too many of them come back from their dog walks looking empty. It is possible that these bags are more for show than go?
It's highly possible because there are many -- probably a majority -- of dog fanciers who behave as if the Principles of Pet Dematerialization are in force. What are these principles? Simply this: Nothing shameful or annoying that issues from any orifice of my pet will be acknowledged by me. No scat deposited on my lawn, for example, will materialize in your view. And not only senses of sight and smell are affected. No real dog owner can hear either. How else to explain how an owner can allow his sweet pooch to yowl without cease -- Owowowow ... Raugh! -- without waver for 96 consecutive minutes. I mean, you couldn't hear this knowing that your neighbors were trying to sleep, listen to Brahms or keep their sanity, could you?