Observers of life - canine and human - can learn a lot at the dog park. Our dogs probably view this as a little piece of heaven where they can run free, finally disconnected from the leash and its daunting responsibilities. In the park, they needn't worry about us, but we need to abide by the rules in order to keep the place from, well... going to the humans. The rules aren't complicated:
Dogs must be on a leash entering and leaving the parkMy recently adopted shelter dog has been enjoying his forays to the dog park, leaving behind his usual on-leash trepidation and mixing it up with the other dogs, many of whom are also "rescues". Size, color, breed, reproductive status - none of these matter to him. Any dog willing to join him in barrel-racing around the park is his new BFF, as his fiercely wagging tail and wide grin can attest. For the most part, he's been well-behaved, and the other dogs mete out polite suggestions for behavior modification if he gets out of line. It's all good.
Owners must watch their dog and remove it if it's aggressive
Owners must pick up after their dogs (bags are provided)
Large dogs must be on the "large dog" side, small dogs on the "small dog" side
Dogs must be kept from digging or owners must repair damage
Smoking, eating, and glass containers are prohibited
Any dog bites must be reported to the proper authorities
That sort of thing... Not rocket science...
The humans are mostly terrific people. Some have taken on "problem dog" rescues that make my dog's tales of woe and lamentation seem like the ideal life. The lengths to which these folks have gone to return their dogs to some semblance of dog life are simply amazing. They're willing to share their stories and welcome newcomers like us.
Still, there are one or two humans who seem to think that they own the place, that their dog has some special rights, and that the rules don't apply to them. Their dogs - unsurprisingly - display a similar sense of entitlement and annoy and intimidate other dogs and other dog owners. This small, obnoxious minority can make the entire place unpleasant, much as the Tea Party has permeated Washington - and much of the country - with fear and angst.
The Bad Dogs of the Tea Party have been tearing up the place, barking, drooling, sinking their teeth into members of their own party, jumping on the old, the weak, and the poor, and sticking their nose into the private parts of anyone who can't outrun them. With so much unmitigated mischief, one wonders: how did these dogs pick up all these bad behaviors?
The "default" condition for most dogs is one of trust, loyalty, congeniality, and cooperation. For thousands of years, dogs have willingly ceded some of their liberties to sleep at our hearth, enjoy a steady supply of food and treats, assist with our work or play, and participate as members of our family. It's worked well for everyone. Some dogs, however, want to go back to the "pre-domestication" days. For these reactionary Rovers, all that matters is "FReeDoM!!!!" (theirs, not yours), and they're willing to shred the fabric of society to return to the days of scary dog packs roaming the streets, terrorizing men, women, and children. But WHY??
In previous installments of this series, my shelter dog and I have offered some suggestions for the Tea Party bad dogs to help them assimilate into polite society. In part one, we covered the basics:
If it's not your yard, it's not your problemIn part deux, we added a few more rules of civilized living that are well understood by many sentient life forms, including:
Leave other people's food alone
Don't crap on other people's lawn
Nobody wants to hear your barking
Be a good pack member
Try a little tenderness
Wag your tail once in a while
Yes, the rules apply to YOUNeedless to say, our well-intentioned suggestions were lost in the barking, scratching, clawing feeding frenzy of the Tea Party Bad Dogs. So today, we turn our attention to the Bad Owners, a pair of brothers who turned a bunch of ordinary garden-variety canids into a Weapon of Mass Destruction to advance their evil objectives.
Don't take more than you need, just because you can
Protect the kids
Respect your elders
All dogs start out fine, so how did these dogs become so utterly loathsome, such a disgrace to their species? We don't know for sure, but we suspect that the Evil Brothers' plan looked something like this:
Find some dogs with time on their paws: The recruitment scheme was pretty simple - use a dog-whistle to awaken sleeping dogs and get them to leave their dens and follow the sound.
Prey on their fears: Every dog can be made to fear or hate someone or something. Dogs soon associate the dog-whistle with a state of intense aggression. Even a television tuned to Fox News can do the trick.
Replace their water with Kool-Aid: We don't know what's in the Evil Brothers' proprietary mix (fracking wastewater?) but it makes the Tea Party dogs more susceptible to manipulation to the point where they will blindly follow directions from Headquarters.
Develop pack "leaders": They needn't be the smartest members of the group, only the ones who bark the loudest or bite the hardest or "mark" the most trees. Occasional "red meat" offerings keep the pack seething with rage.
Control messaging: Reliance on social media is vital. No thumbs? Not a problem! The Evil Brothers' minions will fill cyberspace with hate-speech. All the dogs need to do is keep on barking, jumping, biting, and terrorizing people.
The Tea Party Bad Dogs performed their parts well. Too well. Why, they even imagined that this was "their" movement, and that the terror resulting from their rampage was "their" achievement. Frightened by the chaos they'd unleashed, the Evil Brothers wonder whether their Astroturf pack of Bad Dogs had gotten out of control.
Let's see: Crazed dogs foaming at the mouth, racing through the streets? Check! Bloody-fanged beasts turning on their own kind? Check! Food stolen from the mouths of babies? Check! Elderly people living in terror as roving packs ravaged their homes? Check! Dog packs preying on other dogs just based on their color? Check? Night air filled with mindless barking, leaving everyone tossing and turning in fitful sleep, waiting for the next shoe to drop? Check! Steaming piles of crap left all over the countryside? Check.
Speaking of steaming piles of crap... Life in civilized society demands that we clean up after ourselves and our dogs in order to keep the place livable. Owners who don't take action when their Bad Dogs crap on our lawns can expect some pushback, from an evil glance or a critical remark to a flaming bag of dog crap appearing on their front porch at dusk. For their sake, I hope that the Evil Brothers' porches can handle the load when everyone returns their "gifts". It might be enough to set off a tectonic reaction, and the flames will dwarf this past summers' wildfires.