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Emily faced-off with the most approachable dog in the world, and Emily frightened easily. The leashed dachshund - a long-haired mix, seemingly cut off at the hips with its resultant figure so low to the ground it appeared to be shuffling along in a continuous trench - eyed the wiggle-lipped girl and wrinkled its brow nervously, ashamed of the scene it had just caused. This breed of dog always struck me as an unflattering canine caricature of the Neurotic Jew - long, thin nose, sad eyes, guilty expression, drooping ears and hair that lengthens significantly just below the eye line, like the naked crown / long hair solution to male pattern baldness. All in all, not the kind of dog that presents much of a threat.

Nonetheless, this discarded, shaggy toupee held Emily in place, physically blocking the entrance to Connecticut Muffin as locals huddled around impatiently, not wanting to further disturb this clearly disturbed young girl, but wanting very much to get closer to peppermint tea and the last slice of lemon poppy seed loaf. Money demanded to be spent, making fanny packs itchy, and polite smiles strained while teas cooled. Many people in the crowd (growing with each moment, as it was nearing prime muffin time) seemed to be struggling back some urge to remotely parent this girl, this pathetically frail girl, this rude troll who cared nothing about the important timetables of her neighbors. Morning glory muffin at 10:05am, Bikram yoga at 10:30 - can't God hear me now?

God remained quite still. As did Emily, frozen in place and teetering on the verge of public urination. The dachshund swiveled its head from side to side, engaging its new audience with an expression that could only mean "I had nothing to do with the death of Jesus Christ". And the Connecticut Muffin patrons began to murmur together, as if performing an amateur acting exercise in crowd noise where every word sounded uncannily like "muffinmuffinmuffinmuffin."

* * * * *

When I was child-sized, the scariest creatures in the animal kingdom were, in ascending order of their natural ability to produce fear: piranhas, killer whales, great white sharks, hammerhead sharks, hammerhead sharks armed with ninja throwing stars, and Doberman Pinschers. Dobermans won top honors because of the complete reality and closeness of their threat. They were not exotic; they were the serial killers living right next door to you. Crazy where those who tried to pet one, because these demons knew nothing of love. The slightest effort at genuine affection was perceived as a threat and treated accordingly, with extreme prejudice.

These dogs seemed to be at odds with the world. They were tightly packed, homicidal muscles waiting to rip a Grit magazine salesman limb from skinny limb. I presumed their tails were nubs as a product of evolution instead of a product of grooming - that the dogs chewed them off by themselves, enraged by the wagging life they exhibited.

Nothing could change my opinion. The Doberman Gang, by its own rights a feel-good family caper film, could only be watched through laced fingers. My fear of Dobermans was so great I had difficulty watching bits of that old Merry Melodies cartoon in which a mutt tries to get himself adopted by declaring his pedigree. When the dog yelled, "I'm fifty percent Pointer - 'dere it is! 'dere it is!" I would brace myself, knowing the dog was about to announce he was a full 50% pinscher, making him a menace to any dog lover, real or animated.

Then one day the Dobermans disappeared. Stories of mailmen or would-be cat burglars being mauled by those Nazi hounds were suddenly replaced by tales of The Pit Bull That Wouldn't Let Go...of a Baby's Head. How did Pit Bulls, the Limp Bizkit fans of the canine world, manage to out-fierce Dobermans almost overnight, and with no great difficulty? Perhaps it was a product of their amazing tenacity and brainless, big-hearted loyalty, combined with an almost forgivable ignorance of consequence. (Pit Bulls were the brick-headed hooligan to the Doberman's well-manicured diabolical madman.) Whatever it was, Dobermans retreated into the shadows like Clint Eastwood's William Munny, while Pits stole headlines and kept the whole country on a short leash.

Other dogs have recently shared some responsibility for children crossing to the opposite side of the street - Rottweillers, Bulldogs, Hammerhead Terriers - but, thanks to hip-hop ballers and the poorly instructed masses who emulate them, the Pit Bull has maintained some kind of staying power as the top choice in homicidal canine.

Perhaps the Doberman was too smart for its own good. Perhaps its very intelligence out-mastered its master, became a threat to proper discipline. I'm sure somewhere, in a clean white laboratory, the Doberman is planning its comeback. And I'm also sure that comeback will be swift, bloody, and highly efficient. For now, though, we'll have to suffer through the messy inbreeding and tainted genetic fabric of short, squat Pits.

* * * * *

It's been six days since I wrote that last sentence and Emily never did budge. The Connecticut Muffin closed down, citing a standstill in business, and the poor dachshund went into cardiac arrest around day three. They say he worried himself to death. Emily's au pair is still hoping to clean up this mess gracefully. "Close your eyes and take a big step over the little toupee, Emily. You can do it. He can't hurt you now. One big step. I'll hold on to you, I promise, and I'll never let go." And Emily continues to measure her fear in ounces.


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