DOGS: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE.
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
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
* * * * *
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
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.