Thursday, February 25, 2010

People and Their Dogs

I've had so many snarky interactions with people and their dogs, I came to the realization that people use their dogs as proxies for their inner angst about being failures, sexually frustrated, broke, etc. When people fly off the handle at you over some issue with your dog or theirs, it's probably not really about the dog.

I live near Montrose Harbor, and I headed out with my dog Kuma tonight for our daily romp by the lake. He is the quintessential dog: I know, just ask me. A smurf in a wolf-suit, he is 99% voice-controlled, knows how to roll down windows and has absolutely no idea that he looks scary. I speak to him in full sentences and he understands me. Yes, my dog is the George Clooney of German Shepherds and an absolute genius. But I digress.

I've never been one to want to be on someone's leash, so when it's ass-biting cold outside and there is nothing but a faint pulse along the lakefront, I let him trot around freely. As we came out of the underpass, I heard a voice mumble something behind me. I turned around, and saw a man walking his golden lab. "Is your dog friendly?" I asked cheerfully.

He yanked his dog back suddenly as if the path had caught on fire. "Yes, but we're not going anywhere NEAR your dog! He needs to be on a leash!" he barked at me.

"Oh, no, he's super friendly," I reassured him. His dog's whole butt started to wag when he saw Kuma.

"Well I don't care, it's illegal to have your dog off the leash! But oh, you're SO cute, you don't have to have your dog on a leash!"

I started to say something, and he continued to pounce. "Oh, you're SO cute...YOU can break the law!"

I fired back. "Lighten UP, buddy! Why are you so bitter? Don't take your shit out on-"

"Oh, you're SO cute! YOU can do whatever you want!!! You're SO CUTE!!!!!" He continued to rant as he stormed off in the other direction, dragging his dog with him.


"Well thank you for thinking that I'm so cute," I yelled after him.

As I turned and started to walk away, I got to thinking about this man's outburst. It wasn't about my dog presenting a threat and it wasn't about "breaking the law." I think all of us, at some point in our lives, have smoked weed, parked illegally, broken the speed limit and pirated music or porn on the Internet. It wasn't about the law at all. It was about him feeling like he didn't get the same breaks as other people. His outburst was about him feeling like the world wasn't fair because of "cute" people like me.

First of all, where do we get the idea that life is fair? Attractive people get more breaks than unattractive people. White people get more breaks than black people. Fit people get more breaks than fat people. Young people get more breaks than senior citizens, and Arabs always get fucked at the airport. We're all walking around in physical vessels that transmit messages to society like radio towers. Some of those messages we control, some we do not. Regardless, we're always judged, all the time. Some people get more breaks than others. That's just the way the world works. I've been on the positive end of that, and also the negative. We all have.

Secondly, I do know this: ATTITUDE can trump cuteness, age, race and situation. This might not be the best example, but it is something that comes to mind immediately. I think Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso are pretty much physical equals on the Cuteness Scale. But yesterday Julia had a temper tantrum and burst into tears after Lindsey wiped out before her on the course and forced Julia to restart - as if Lindsey had somehow planned this. Julia also complained to Sports Illustrated about Lindsey getting too much attention. Lindsey responded with nothing but praise for her teammate. Lindsey Vonn: way cute. Julia Mancuso: way NOT cute. (And by the way, Princess, lose the tiara. This is the Olympics, not a beauty pageant.)

A person's physical appearance can transform in an instant depending on his or her attitude. We'll all eventually lose our "cuteness" as we age anyway. But our attitudes stay with us until we die. I hope that as I become less and less sexually desirable by society's standards, people speak highly of my attitude. I would be so lucky if someday, someone walks away from me saying, "That old lady was so cute. What a great attitude!"

...and her dog was super-friendly too.