The dog haters are at it again. In New York, a landlord wants to evict a tenant for keeping a dog in her apartment. The tenant is 60, the dog has been with her for 19 years and she has lived in the apartment for 34. The law is on the wrong side in this one. It needs to curb the landlord.
Alas, he is a common type. Landlords loathe dogs. Housing subdivisions bar them, but even lots of ordinary people maintain that there is no possible reason why dogs should, in this day and age, be found anywhere but on a farm or, for the sake of the kiddies, in a zoo.
Even as the owner of Max The Wonder Dog, I can understand some of this. In the first place, Dobermans should be outlawed, as should all dogs smaller than a cat whose response to almost anything is to bark their little heads off and then lapse into an asthma attack.
I understand, also, that dogs can do damage. I, for one, have some throw pillows that have been mauled almost beyond recognition. I have stains on my rugs, white hairs on my dark suits and I have come close to pneumonia on rainy nights when Max, out of sheer spite, refuses to go out by himself and then, when I finally join him, seems to forget what the walk was all about in the first place.
Nevertheless, I love that dog. It has taken me years to admit it, to summon up the guts to say that I am emotionally involved with what is, after all, an animal--and not a particularly smart one at that. For a long time, I said nothing when people mocked me for having a dog, when they mentioned the shedding, the ruin to home and garden, the time Max got hit by a bus or, for that matter, the time his predecessor, the legendary Duke, took on a buffalo in Custer National Park, thinking--poor, deceived city dog that he was--that since it was neither a squirrel nor a cat it had to be a dog like him, only bigger.
The reason I hid my feelings about dogs was the rather widespread belief that a thing--any thing--ought to have a benefit you could quantify or it ought not to exist. With a dog, all you could really quantify was the damage or the inconvenience. The rest--and there was quite a bit--was intangible, emotional. In a period when lots of emotions were thought to be either quaint or dangerous--Vietnam did that to patriotism, for instance--there was little to be said for a dog.
But dogs were hardly unique in this regard. People talked about children the same way. They cited the expense, the harm they could (and do) do to a relationship, the burden they put on a career, the inconvenience and concluded --nay, vowed--that they would never, but never, have kids. This was the ethic articulated very eloquently by lots of women, many of them young, many of them now mothers. For some reason, they have difficulty remembering exactly why they once felt the way they did, and so passionately at that.
They were not alone, though. I used to get press releases from an organization that was in favor of people having no children at all. It had lots of good reasons for its positions--population control, for one--and I used to nod my head as they ticked them off. Nevertheless, I could not read one of those press releases without getting angry, without saying, in effect, you're right but I want children anyway. Now I have a child and I know, as surely as I know anything, how wrong they were.
And so it is with dogs. They enrich life in ways that are hard to explain. The negatives are readily apparent while the positives, if there is such a word, are not. Experiments show the therapeutic value of having a dog (less depression, lowered heart rate), but to the cynical that sounds like an excuse for doing what you would do anyway--something like people saying they drink because it's good for the heart.
So it is easy to argue against dogs, to talk about bother and (the ultimate) respect for the rights of others and ignore that these explanations mask nothing less than intolerance--a value system that cherishes property above all other things. That is what's behind the thinking of the landlord in New York who wants to evict the lady and her poodle. He thinks his problem is with dogs. It's not. It's with people.