With record numbers of Americans keeping dogs and cats as pets, we are plagued by many unwelcome consequences. House cats are inflicting brain damage on their human hosts with a feline disease spread through the animals' fecal matter, which people store in their homes—usually in the kitchen. When the cats are sent outdoors to defecate, they kill staggering numbers of wild birds, leaving many of our cities without any avian life beyond the feral pigeons roosting safely upon the ledges of tall buildings. Then there are the dogs, which use the entire city as one great, unflushable toilet. There are valid arguments against the existence of all dogs, but even animal lovers can agree we need to do something drastic about the "toy breeds."
Dogs in the suburbs tend to live out their days between a fenced backyard and whatever room their humans use to eat fast food and watch cable. These lives may be tragic, but they have no immediate bad effects on society. The urban dog, like the urban person, is far more dependent on public infrastructure. Sidewalks, fire hydrants, narrow strips of dirt and broken glass, outdoor cafes where people are trying to eat, jogging paths and dog parks allow the canine to exercise, stimulate its mind, socialize, and empty its bladder and bowels—all within an environment of simmering human hostility.
A fact of human nature is that not even dog owners want other dogs crapping and urinating and digging and yapping. Never has a friendly voice called from a brownstone to a passing neighbor: "I see you've got a mastiff that was apparently bred to do nothing but force out Duramflame-sized fecal logs before its death from hip dysplasia. I'm a dog owner myself, so by all means let your animal use my tiny herb garden under my living room window as a squat latrine."
This is one of many reasons I glare out from my study to the sidewalk outside. And, like playing classical music on the radio kept by the open window, it is an extremely effective way of keeping people from lingering outside your home. Nobody wants to sell pills on the street with a Viennese waltz blasting behind them. Nobody wants to be watched from a window.
Staring down an interloper is a guaranteed way to break that interloper's confidence in whatever they were about to do. Whether from peripheral vision or the commonplace psychic ability of feeling someone's distant stare, the dog-walking human feels those eyes gazing down and knows this is not the place to stop. They move on, sometimes with a visible shudder. Or, if it's too late and the dog has already crouched, the human will make a big show out of actually collecting the feces in one of those brightly colored poop bags mostly carried around for show.
When society functions, it is a dance of hostile partners all keeping each other in line. And that is why the very worst pet, the small or "toy breed" dog, can only be eliminated from our culture by being policed out of existence. The real police do very little but hassle poor people, of course. It's the upstanding citizens who do all the snitch work necessary for widespread enforcement.
The small dog is a complete menace. While you can say "it's not the poor thing's fault," the fact is that a small dog has a guilty soul. It knows it was bred as a cruel joke by human kings and queens who had long grown bored of toying with people. And so the heart of a tiny dog is bursting with hate.
So freakishly shrunken that even a starving tree squirrel is a physical threat, the little dog takes its walks consumed by rage. Nothing infuriates these genetic pranks more than seeing a dog of normal size. From half a block away, through a shifting visual curtain of parcel deliveries and double strollers and yoga mats and shopping carts full of recycling, the toy dog spots a normal, happy dog taking normal-sized steps, tail wagging at an easy, normal pace. The person with the regular dog is walking at a regular pace, perhaps picking up a newspaper or a coffee or some vegetables from market, as the psychologically fit animal of normal size looks up with friendly curiosity at passing strangers and gurgling babies attached to bicycles.
Still a quarter block away, the small dog is already in an absolute, foaming frenzy. It strains at the end of its lead, a string so thin that it would be mistaken for dental floss if not for the rhinestones decorating the loop around the wrist of the person who decided this was a good idea, for a dog to be bred down to the size of a cell phone.
Finally, the tiny quivering hate machine sees the entirety of the source of its wrath: a calm old retriever mix who looks down good-naturedly, barely able to discern the yips and yaps over the slamming of the UPS truck's roller door and the notification dings of sex-partner apps and the hip hop blasting from a million-dollar apartment above the New American bistro. And just as the bile is about to burst out of the toy breed, the caretaker of this infernal dwarf scoops it up and tucks it into a handbag. The zipper closes. Darkness envelops the creature, while its sensitive nose is overpowered with the industrial stink of perfume and sugar-free chewing gum.
The little dog doesn't want to be alive any more than we want it to live. An aggressive program of federally mandated spaying and neutering—surely a feature already tucked into the endnotes of Obamacare legislation—will clear the streets of these menaces within two decades, when the last of the "toy breeds" will succumb to the sub-species' most natural cause of death: constant impotent rage.
Ken Layne, the nation's moral barometer, writes his American Almanac for Gawker every Monday.
[Image by Jim Cooke, original photo via Getty]