Loss of Innocence
David and Goliath
He Who Pays the Piper
Future of Colin Powell
Requiem for Broken Dream
Gifts from Paradise
War On Iraq
Bush One, Saddam One
Remember J. Merridith
State of In-Betweenity
Words Do Matter
The Lynching of Iraq
Before the Riots Begin
A Dog's Life
Passing of PM Charles
Fin. & Econ. Survival
In Walks 'Madam Hawke'
Impressions - 05 Elections
Deep Throat Revealed
Beyond The Pale
Gospel of Judas
Rise of Barack Obama
© J.B. Sampson
A DOG'S LIFE
(March, 11th 2003)
The four-legged creature has a long history of close relationship with man. He has often been described as "man's best friend". Whether as a hunting companion or just a plain guard dog, man's association with the dog is perhaps as old as the history of man itself.
But it's complex relationship, one that is often rooted in culture and local custom. The English, for example, have elevated dogs to a status that other cultures may find incomprehensible. They think little of spending considerable amounts of money on grooming their dogs, parade them in dog shows, allow them in their living rooms and generally regard them as veritable members of their families.
The same thing can be said of North Americans. They treat their dogs better than they do some of their neighbours. During the Civil Rights struggle dogs were used to keep black people in their place, or rather, push them back where they "belonged". Some rich people are known to leave millions of dollars in their will to their dogs. Dog fights, long a favorite sport in some states, have been largely banned.
Chinese, Koreans and some others of Asian decent worship their dogs but also regard them as having some culinary value. Westerners frown at the notion of Orientals eating dogs, a practice that is believed to be common in Vietnam and China itself. But that's par for the course, if we are willing to be tolerant of the French to whom horse meat is a delicacy, no less than our own local frogs which make some foreigners squirm if they are not yet initiated.
One can think of no other animal with whom man has had such an intimate relationship. Our association with dogs have given rise to numerous metaphors, some depicting values that underlie the societies we live in. The Wall Street community, for instance, where billions are made and lost, has a fondness for dog metaphors: "If you want a friend on Wall Street, buy a dog". Underlying this famous adage is the notion that there are no real friends in the world of money. The word "dog" in Wall Street lingo also refers to a stock that has been down for a long time, one that you have kept because no one else is willing to buy it from you, at a price that you might want.
And how about this one: "Every dog has his day". This is how we say we may be down on our luck today, but there is hope for tomorrow. This idea of a dog being the epitome of deprivation is also contained in the word "underdog", a common sports metaphor used to describe a team with little chance of winning against a formidable opponent. Or we might just say: "You are a dog", a common way of putting some one in his place, implying that he or she is at the bottom rung of the social ladder.
There may, of course, be moments when the "put down" may not be so harsh but we nonetheless summon dog metaphors to make the point. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain comes to mind. He has been variously described in his own country as a "lap dog" or "poodle" because of his obedience to US President George Bush as they pursue an unpopular policy of war against Iraq.
Standing in direct contrast to the lap dog is the ferocious "Bull Dog", some one who will not hesitate to go on the offensive. They seek blood and will be content with no less. US Vice president Dick Cheney? Perhaps.
And then there are those times when we wish to describe someone as mean spirited and we say "He is as mean as a 'junkyard' dog". More often used in the United States, this metaphor brings to mind the deprivation of a junkyard and a poor dog struggling to make a living and will bare his teeth and growl to defend his territory.
Again, in the United States, when they wish to say that a person has no potential as an elected official, a reference to a dog is sought: "This guy can't even be elected 'dog catcher'". Or perhaps the quip might be: "not even dogs like him".
"Let sleeping dogs lie" is an expression that is not too uncommon in our local culture. Unfortunately, it's one that often goes unheeded.
Dogs are not always treated with the gentleness and care they deserve in Dominica. They are often the recipients of callous and insensitive behavior. The "Mash" and the kicking are typical of a dog's life in our island. No wonder why the Mongrel, the common breed endowed with a formidable capacity for survival, is the most common. Dogs of high pedigree require a greater level of care and attention.
Dogs were often the objects of cruel fun in Mahaut when I was growing up. A scared and abandoned puppy, his tail tucked firmly between his hind legs, would be chased down the public road to the chant of "baway-I". Villagers would line the street and repeat the chant from one end of the village to the other, deriving a considerable amount of pleasure from the sight of a frightened puppy. This practice may have gone the way of the "Kai Pai" that was the norm in village housing many years ago. One hopes, however, that motorists would show greater sensitivity to stray dogs and not treat them as disposable strays to be run over with impunity.
Man and dog have had a long, mutual love affair. One feeds off the other. My own Ali, a black, sometimes gentle canine, a cross between a Labrador and Rottweiler, is nothing but admirable and loyal. Her physical presence and fearsome bark are sufficient to convey a sense of security at nights, especially as an early warning of would be intruders.
Enough time to pack my 9 millimeter Reuger.