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Country Dog/City Dog

Aug
6
2008

I try to stay away from shallow forms of judgment. I know many people will look at how someone is dressed or what type of vehicle they drive and form and instant opinion of them; but not me.
I observe what kind of dog they own – or not.
And I do too know people who don’t own dogs. I have two brothers who don’t own dogs and I understand they can still go on to lead somewhat normal lives.
Here in the Shenandoah Valley, we observe specific traditions in regard to dog ownership. While the area is rural, clusters of houses require the social observances mandatory in any suburban neighborhood. So the here’s the general rhythm of things:
1. You get married.
2. You inherit or are given an acre or so of land and a “starter home” from your grandparents, who inherited hundreds of acres from their grandparents. (If you have to buy your own land in The Valley, you’re a foreigner from maybe Fairfax or Fauquier counties.)
3. You acquire a Labrador Retriever.
Black, golden or chocolate, it doesn’t matter, but it must be a Labrador Retriever. Why? Because they’re low-maintenance and easily trained. Golden Retrievers can matt up and Border Collies are actually smarter than humans and, thereby, not so easily led. Certainly anything more strong-willed, like a German Shepherd or Rottweiler, is out of the question, no matter what it says about the size of a Valley guy’s. . . brain. . . because if his wife isn’t pregnant already, she will be within a year because she’s already 18 years old and her biological clock is ticking. So you need a dog that will automatically love your children and Labs love everyone.
I am surrounded by Labrador Retrievers. They sit calmly and obediently in their front yards with a bemused grin on their faces as they watch those crazy Jackson terriers going berserk behind a chain-link fence that looks like the Tyrannosaurus pen in Jurassic Park – and just about as effective.
Which brings us to who, exactly, owns terriers. The answer is: People with a vast amount of patience; or people who thought they had a vast amount of patience (the category into which Dirtman and I fall). If Border Collies are the Albert Einsteins of the canine world, terriers are John Forbes Nashes – you know, the guy from A Beautiful Mind: they’re absolutely brilliant, but can be and usually are, in a state requiring massive doses of medication.
Out in the farmland is where you will find the serious working dogs; dogs bred to toil side by side with their human; noble, functional, intelligent and loyal, here is where you will find the beautiful Australian Shepherd (and those goody-two-shoes Border Collies) – except for the ones around here waiting for me to wait on them.
The toy breeds are not plentiful out here, but I have a feeling they will be migrating soon, now that Hollywood has re-established the practice of turning living beings into fashion accessories. Because, you know that a little dog makes your breasts look bigger.
I’m sure toys breeds are plentiful in the cities and I was recently asked, what is it with all these big guys walking little dogs. My knee-jerk reaction was, naturally, they’re gay. But then I remembered Fifi.
When I worked as a groomer back in the 1970s one of my regular customers was a pink toy poodle called, requisitely, FiFi. The dyes that were available back then had caused ethical groomers to refuse to offer such services (aside from the fact that it looked just, plain silly), so apparently FiFi’s color was a home job. I never met Fifi’s “mommy.” He (yes, Fifi was a “he”) was dropped off by a sad, ex-wiseguy type – think Luca Brazi from The Godfather – who never said a word. He’d schlump in, hand me the dog, schlump back out. At the end of the day he’d schlump in again, I’d hand him Fifi and a card for his next appointment, he’d hand me $30 (back then it amounted to a 100 percent tip), and out he’d schlump. I assumed the generous tip was for not laughing.
I pictured him returning home to some fading ex-gangster moll with pink hair that matched Fifi, low-cut ruffled blouse, leopard-skin capris and matching kitten heels. She’d be chattering endlessly about her day and how cute little Fifi looks and he’d be schlumped in the corner wearing a goomba undershirt, swigging a Carling Black Label, smoking his filterless Camels and reading a racing form.
But far be it from me to make snap judgments about people’s lives.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 9:40 AM | Permalink

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