Walking in our paws: A parable

‘It is true that we are a companionable species, but we demand the right to retain our canine nature.’ So says the Canine Liberation Front.

GRAFTON — On a blustery November afternoon, the Canine Liberation Front (CLF) held a press conference at Dog Hill in Central Park.

A winsome, bright-eyed border collie spoke through her interpreter, a young woman employed as the dog's walker. She spoke in a calm, earthy voice reminiscent of Lauren Bacall.

“I'm privileged to be here today as translator for the CLF,” she said, and the dog spoke.

“We have organized to protest the oppression of our human captors. Ever since I was a puppy. I've been confined in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

“I was bred to be a working dog, and I frequently dream of herding sheep and cows. Unlike many of my frustrated brethren, I do not express my dissatisfaction by raiding the garbage or shredding the rugs.

“Instead, I have learned to read in the language of our oppressors by watching TV, studying newspapers on the coffee table, and learning to use the confounding object called a computer.

“We have recently endured another Halloween during which we were dressed in all manner of frivolous costumes, paraded on the streets, and had our photographs posted on Facebook without our permission.

“With Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching, we declare that we will no longer submit to the indignity of being dressed as pumpkins, turkeys, reindeer, and elves. We will also shuck off cutesy rhinestone collars, both real and metaphorical, and will accept only soft cotton bandanas as a form of decoration.

“For several years, dog owners have been slathering us with an offensive substance called 'perfume.' It irritates our olfactory nerves and stings our throats. In an effort to understand this folly, I Googled 'perfume for dogs' and found 33,800,000 results. The website poshpuppyboutique.com advertises a 'holiday scent' and a reek of other 'fragrances' for daily wear.

“We say poop on posh! This is capitalism unchained. The purveyors make millions selling this noxious stuff to wacky owners who don't want us to smell like dogs.”

* * *

“We are aware that the word 'owner' is now considered politically incorrect. We are meant to be called 'companions.' It is true that we are a companionable species, but we demand the right to retain our canine nature.

“Owners must walk in our paws and learn how to think like us. Otherwise, they are no different than the politicians in the 1 percent who can't relate to the majority of their constituents.

“Our owners persist on calling us their 'babies' and refer to themselves as our 'moms and dads.' This verbiage is demeaning and greatly underestimates our intelligence. We know how we were bred and by whom. We don't want to be treated like pampered, snotty-nosed kids. We want to be understood.

“Thousands of our brethren are neglected and abused, and they may perceive us as spoiled brats whining about 'luxury problems.' But each and every one of us deserves to be treated with respect and have his or her needs attended.

“Our needs are simple. We need healthy food, yearly vaccinations, shelter from inclement weather, regular exercise and play time, and a sensible code of conduct. We feel safe and relaxed when we are given clear, consistent messages delivered by owners who practice loving authority.

“Many owners construe the word 'discipline' as punishment, but the root word comes from the Latin disciplina. According to dictionary.com. 'discipline' means 'instruction given, teaching, learning, knowledge.'

“We thrive on learning. Apparently our owners do not. When they fail to provide proper boundaries, we 'act out' by dragging them on our leashes, leaping on house guests, begging at dinner tables, and barking incessantly. A few of our kind even snarl and attack their brethren.

“Some owners regard this deplorable behavior as funny and cute, much to the consternation of well-mannered dogs and humans who must walk amongst this unnecessary chaos.”

* * *

“Now there is yet another folly perpetrated by misguided dog owners. Increasing numbers of them are registering their pets with the National Service Animal Registry and other commercial organizations.

“An applicant sends a check and a letter from a health-care provider alleging that the pet is essential for the owner's 'mental well-being.' The pet is then certified as an 'emotional-support animal.'

“These unwitting poseurs are carted into supermarkets, restaurants, and the dressing rooms of trendy boutiques. They ride on trains and planes and sleep in hotels without paying the customary fees.

“These pets are not to be mistaken for genuine service dogs, rigorously trained and allowed in public places under the auspices of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Nor must they be confused with therapy dogs who visit hospitals and nursing homes.

“The ADA defines a service animal as 'a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples include people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with PTSD during an an anxiety attack, or performing other duties.

“According to the ADA, 'Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task of a dog that has been trained must be directly related to the person's disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.'

“Many so-called emotional-support animals have not even received rudimentary training. They run amok, and it's not their fault. Their owners are oblivious to the problems they cause for those around them, four-and two-legged alike.

“Ever since our ancestors agreed to domestication, we have demonstrated our ability to soothe the troubled souls of humans. We are glad to be of use and participate in interdependent relationships, but we are not children, nannies, or psychiatrists.

“When our innate intelligence is not honored, it cannot shine. We must call this circumstance what it is.


“We urge owners to occasionally stop and consider what we think of you.

“The members of the CLF have unanimously voted to offer one concession. We will submit to wearing holiday costumes because this tradition seems to offer humans much merriment. Our other demands are not negotiable. Our mental well-being is at stake.”

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