Hermann Hates: Dogs
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 7 May 96 14:38:32 -0700
Subject: Hermann Hates: Dogs
Forwarded-by: Keith Bostic <firstname.lastname@example.org>
HERMANN HATES Dogs
-- by Andrew Hermann
Like most people, I am awakened every morning by the same sound. Unlike
most people, the sound that rouses me is not a steady, monotonous beep, a
ringing bell, a radio, or even one of those unbelievably annoying "Rockin'
Chicken" things that plays a little jingle and goes "Hey, wow, time to get
up, man" (okay, only about two of you got that joke, but for those two of
you it was sure worth it, wasn't it?).
No, the sound that wakes me up every morning is an infernal sound, a sound
that leaves you staring into the gaping maw of madness, a sound for which
there is no name. Actually, I guess most people would call it whining, but
to my ears it resembles nothing so much as someone slowly letting the air
out of a balloon while rubbing it against the strings of an untuned piano.
The source of this symphonic shrillness is my neighbor's dog. Every
morning, rain or shine, hot or cold, six feet of snow or gale force winds,
at about six o'clock my neighbor puts this beast out in his back yard, in
a muddy little corner out next to his trash heap, on a chain maybe long
enough to allow the dog to sit somewhere other than in his own excrement,
should he decide to pass some. The victim of this quaint little ritual is
a big black Doberman half-breed with teeth the size of steak knives and one
of those studded leather collars that says, "Hey, everybody! The guy who
owns me is really tough!"
If you subscribe to the theory that dogs resemble their owners, however,
then the owner of this dog is not so much a tough guy as a whining little
shit. Because his dog is a world-class whiner. He howls. He yelps. He
keens. He snivels. Occasionally, he barks, but even his barks sound whiny.
Sometimes he'll do some breathtaking combinations, the whine-yelp or the
whimper-snivel- howl. He's the Bobby McFerrin of whining dogs.
I've attempted to put a stop to this. I've complained to the family of the
dog-owner, who always refuse to let me see him (the owner) while fanatically
defending the dog's virtue. "He doesn't bark!" one mean-looking little old
lady will holler. "He's a good dog! We take very good care of him! He's
a good dog!" "I'm not saying he barks," I'll say. "He whines." "He
doesn't bark!" the little old lady will scream. The other day I saw her
walking down the street, nowhere near our houses, and as I passed her she
turned to me and screamed, "He doesn't bark!" You have to give her points
I also tried reporting the whining dog problem to the SPCA. They sent
someone around to investigate, but the dog was inside when the SPCA police
arrived and they refused to take further action.
"The dog's healthy," they insisted.
"The dog is sucking my will to live," I explained.
They said if it was more of a nuisance problem that I should call Animal
Control, a branch of your friendly neighborhood police department that
specializes in chasing down rabid raccoons and writing citations for people
whose dogs crap in their neighbors' yards. With a name like Animal Control,
you sort of picture a bunch of guys in peaked caps and jackboots, with
little McGruff insignia on their armbands. But what I got, on the phone at
least, was your typical Boston Irish cop, some guy who had probably been
transferred to Animal Control after walking a beat for thirty years and was
damned if he was ever going to get out from behind his desk again. He told
me he couldn't check out my complaint unless I gave him my name. "I need
your name and address to go on my report," he said.
"I'd prefer not to give them," I said. "The owner of this dog is
"We're not gonna give him your name," the Animal Control guy explained.
"No, but you're gonna come into his house waving your report around, and
although there's a good chance the whole family is illiterate, I'd really
rather not run the risk of junior practicing his alphabet on my address so
daddy can come over later and bash my head in with a baseball bat."
The reason I knew this was a possibility was that Mr. Dog-Owner had come to
pay me a visit after I sicced the SPCA on him. Compared his owner, the dog
is leading man material. This guy had no neck, one eyebrow and that nervous
twitch in the shoulders popularized among would-be tough guys by Martin
"You call the Humane Society about my dog?" he asked, twitching.
Something about his general bearing told me that this would be a good time
to lie. "I don't know what you're talking about," I said.
Mr. Dog-Owner gave me one last cyclopean glare and slouched off. The SPCA
people must've put a bit of a scare into him, because for the next several
mornings there was blessed silence and I could sleep in. But soon the
Canine Wind Ensemble was back, and I would lie in bed watching the sunlight
creep into my room and wondering if Animal Control would bother hiring a
forensics expert to trace the trajectory of the bullets back to my window.
I know the above story sounds like it belongs in a column entitled "Hermann
Hates Dog Owners," but I only chose to highlight it as the worst and most
recent example in a long history of unpleasant encounters between me and
Man's Best Friend. You see, it's not just that I dislike obnoxious
dog-owners, or even obnoxious dogs. I dislike dogs, period. Even the good
ones, and I have met a few, are barely tolerable. I mean, I guess I just
don't get it. In a world that provides us with cats, goldfish, and other
people, what on earth is the point of dogs? Cats fit in the lap more easily
and are generally softer to pet; goldfish are lower maintenance and more
trustworthy (they're always going to [be] right in that tank where you left
them, though granted they do die more frequently); and people provide better
conversation and can be trained to obey far more elaborate commands. Where
do dogs fit into the equation?
I realize that this not a popular position to adopt, and that many of you
poor misguided dog lovers out there are huffing with indignation. But dogs,
you protest, are loaded with great qualities unique to their species! Well,
of course they are. But those very same qualities translate to something
quite different when seen through the eyes of a confirmed dog-hater like
myself. It breaks down like this:
Dog-lover: Dogs are friendlier than other animals.
Dog-hater: Dog camraderie manifests itself as jumping, licking, slobbering,
and crotch-sniffing. If that's friendliness in the animal kingdom, give
me feline hauteur any day.
Dog-lover: Dogs are loyal.
Dog-hater: Play one innocent game of tug-of-war with your friend's dog and
it'll follow you around house every time you come over for the next ten
years. Probably jumping and slobbering on you the whole way.
Dog-lover: Dogs are smart.
Dog-hater: I'd go so far as to say dogs are underrated in the brains
department. Some of my friends' dogs are so smart you can't even use the
words "walk," "out," and "food" in conversation without inciting a barrage
of frantic barking. People with a habit of spelling out words in place of
just saying them are usually the unfortunate owners of Einsteinian dogs.
Dog-lover: Dogs are protective.
Dog-hater: Dogs will attack anything perceived as a threat, including
wind-blown scraps of newspaper, passing cars, postal workers (okay, maybe
in this case the dogs are on to something), and especially, small children
and other dogs. Actually, I think the dog that chased and very nearly
eviscerated me when I was about seven probably perceived me as dinner, but
I'm sure the owner told my parents that he was just being over-protective.
Yeah, I cut a pretty menacing figure at age seven, all right. Those were
the days. Now that I'm full-grown and obviously harmless, dogs just
slobber on me.
Dog-lover: Dogs are affectionate.
Dog-hater: German shepards and other big dogs will try to climb into your
lap to show their affection; small dogs will hump your leg. And all of
them will slobber (did I mention this already?). There are very few people
in whom I would encourage such behavior, let alone canines, but dog-owners
seem to find this sort of thing endearing.
Dog-lover: Dogs are obedient.
Dog-hater: Until you leave the room, pal. Then they climb on the
furniture, eat my shoelaces, and respond to commands they enthusiastically
obeyed mere moments ago with a quizzical cock-eared expression that
suggests they've never heard that particular combination of sounds before.
Dog-lover: Dogs require a commitment. A bond is formed between master and
pet unlike that between humans and any other domestic animal.
Dog-hater: Marriages, jobs, and mortgages require a commitment. A dog
requires getting up at six-thirty a.m. in sub- zero weather to make sure
poochie doesn't crap in the house. And as for bonds, hey, my cat would
follow me to the ends of the earth, okay? He'd just pretend he doesn't
like me when we get there.
I have to admit I am learning to live with some dogs, those well- behaved,
barely tolerable ones I mentioned earlier. I've willingly played with
friends' dogs on occasion. I've walked at least two dogs for friends; I
even agreed to do that thing where you put your hand in a baggie, pick up
the dogshit, and turn the baggie inside out to dispose of it. And in a
moment of temporary insanity-- induced, I admit, by sheer lust--I even
dogsat for a week for a very attractive friend of mine. Her dog was so darn
smart he could obey about ten different commands in English and in Russian.
But he still crapped in the fireplace, peed on the carpet, and sprinted
ahead on our walks until the chain poleaxed him back to a steady trot.
Recently I've begun seeing a woman who owns two Boston terriers. The
terriers are pug-nosed, beetle-eyed little things that can leap and yap and
slobber with the best of them. As with most dogs, these seem to like me;
whenever I come over they stand on their hind legs and paw happily at my
knees, oblivious to my discomfort. And I like their owner, and their owner
dotes on them, so now I let the older one, Buster, climb all over me, and
I play tug-of-war with the younger one, Vicki, who seems like she would be
content to play tug-of-war every waking moment of the day. And I've almost
convinced myself that, gee, you know, Boston terriers are actually kinda
Then I wake up at six o'clock in the morning to that infernal sound, that
sound for which there is no name. And for the next forty-five minutes,
until my alarm goes off, I lie there thinking, "God, I hate dogs."
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© 1996 Peter Langston