Why Do People Have Dogs?

Admittedly, the dog/human relationship has evolved over many centuries; dogs were domesticated to ward off varmints, assist in hunting, act as guardians of the home, and were bred for these purposes, but long after most of them stopped doing any of these undeniably useful things, preferring instead to spend their limitless free time chewing on the furniture, digging up the yard, and eating cat poop, they’re still here, and in greater numbers than ever.  I find this unfathomable.  Why would otherwise sane people pay good money to have a filthy, loud, destructive, hair-shedding critter trash their home and belongings, suck up money and poop out, well, poop, for nothing more than some sort of weird, inter-species “companionship?”

I suppose I’m biased, having had, growing up, one of the most miserable curs (as yet)  known to man, a purebred miniature Schnauzer named Max, but compared to the dogs I encounter these days, Max was practically Lassie.  Due in part to a rather brutal version of toilet training by our housekeeper that involved hurling him down the basement stairs for every “accident,” Max could be left for a day or two without leaving any stinky surprises, at least in our house.  Neighbors weren’t so blessed, as we discovered later….  This being the early seventies, nobody walked dogs in those days, so all we had to do was let Max out, where he would poop in neighbors’ yards (never ours), chase cats, father lots of little Schnauzer-mix puppies, and beg for food, coming home only for meals.  Aside from a few doors ruined by scratching and the inevitable vet bills from fights, Max was a low-impact dog, and he knew his place.

Not so dogs today, who are raised by some sort of Benjamin Spock system wherein no behavior is too horrifying to be tolerated, and no expense too crippling to keep them around long past their usefulness by the veterinary “industry,” which no longer  allows a fed-up owner to put them to sleep, even if they have a terminal disease and/or the owner hates them.  Thus, self-destructive stupidity has been transformed into saintly “compassion.”  Rather than the other way around, today’s dog “owner” is now the dog’s servant, blaming themselves for the dog’s incorrigible behavior, and altering their lives for the worse to make the dog happy.  ”He chewed up my expensive new shoes because he was mad at me for being gone too long.”  ”She shit on my couch because she didn’t like the new food I gave her.”  ”He pulled the wallpaper off the wall because he was frustrated.”  No, those dogs did those things because they spotted you, as a dog owner in the 21st century, as a useful and credulous idiot, who will feed and support them whether they deserve it or not, and blame themselves, deservedly, for the fact that their spoiled and offensive dog ought to be dropped off at the nearest Korean restaurant, posthaste, for the good of all concerned.

Our capitalist system has obviously spotted this trend: once the Big Sleep, and even the rolled-up newspaper, became verboten in polite society, airlines could charge astronomical fees for transporting useless vermin hither and yon, every sort of dog pampering-enterprise could make bank, and the pet “industry” became as fat and happy as military contractors, not to mention those, like myself, who could make a nice living repeatedly repairing the damage dogs cause.  Dog ownership, like fundamentalist religiosity, is pretty much like walking around with a tattoo on your forehead that says, “Sucker,” and all manner of grifters have acted accordingly, as you’d expect.

That’s the worse aspect of this dog-worship, I think.  Dog owners have become just like the overly religious, in that despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they still look with suspicion and even disgust on those who are too “selfish” and “cruel” to have a dog, or even resentfully respect those who choose not to have these flea-bitten freeloaders trash their homes and crimp their lives.  Thus, people who have made a completely irrational, costly, and often obnoxious lifestyle choice actually feel superior to those  smart enough not to.   That’s a problem.

Dog owners, like religious zealots, are entitled to whatever thin gruel of happiness they garner from their weird obsessions, I’ll be the first to admit, but both groups must accept the fact that no observable reality supports that decision, and behave accordingly.  If all dogs, and Christians, for that matter, go to Heaven, I’ll take Hell, if only because it will certainly smell better.

PS…  Happy Birthday to my brother, Turd, who was very excited when Joan and I finally took Max for the long night-night.


  1. Around where I live, everybody for three blocks in every direction has at least two — hence the name of my blog — and fenced yards. You can’t stroll around the neighborhood without getting barked at by at least fifty of ‘em. Nasty, decrepit, decaying creatures, usually as old (in dog years) and as dyspeptic as their owners. For a while until he croaked, there was even an ancient 3-legged pug who’d painfully rouse himself from the porch, hop slowly down to the gate and rasp at me in the canine equivalent of all those whiskey-voced cocktailhags we both love until I passed the fence line to the next yard.

    Now I was raised with dogs, liked them fine as a kid and as far as I know, there’s not a drop of Arab blood in me, but I discovered at least 30 years ago that I’m NOT a dog lover. I can’t say I’m a dog hater either, so long as they’re kept well away from me, but I suppose I could never live in England without getting lynched.

    I can’t wait to see the other comments. I’m thinking that the responses might resemble those you’d get by mentioning your sympathy for Gazan children at an AIPAC meeting.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I have nothing against dogs; in fact I like some of them. I just don’t get why anyone would want one around full time. I was somewhat hesitant to write this piece, but what the heck?
      Evidently Nailhead doesn’t care much for canines, either, or he would have cropped up by now to berate me, like your hypothetical AIPACers. No pun intended, but it’s the dog that didn’t bark.

  2. consuela says:

    Well said! You’ve got to be the most East Coast West Coaster I know.
    I’ve often wondered who owns who. Had one poop outside my studio just this weekend, owner couldn’t get that shit in the bag fast enough, I think every photo in the portrait gallery scrunched up their nose.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Ah, yes, this business of taking the dog everywhere is probably the most annoying part, “I just love this smelly, barking, ill-behaved poop factory, so everyone else must, too.”

  3. dirigo says:

    So this must be what they mean when they talk about the dog days of August.

  4. nancy says:

    Well, you just never met my dog, who of course would have changed your mind. Except I do remember when she was still in sort-of-puppy stage that she drove our contractor nuts, because she did what dogs do–put her nose where it doesn’t belong without warning. Maybe it’s that house-fixer doggy experience thing y’all have in common. Are you immune to the imploring brown eyes? You don’t say. You’ve just met the wrong dogs though. Ours didn’t bark, even when an intruder came in through the back door looking for Shirley, muttering about something as he sat in the living room dismantling the VCR equipment, thinking no one was home. Well, to our dog’s credit, hubby didn’t pay attention either, as he continued to check 101 unread emails left during our vacation.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I do find individual dogs to be endearing at times, and even the worst ones have their cute moments, but still. Do they help with the rent? Is it worth the trouble?
      That part I struggle with.
      But the “You never met my dog” thingy is a losing argument. I used to manage an apartment building, and despite the rather clear “No Pets” sign, I got a steady stream of dog owners who all thought their miserable curs were so wonderful that we would think they were Jackie Onassis, only hairier, once we met them. They were always wrong about this.
      I’m sure that your dog is sweet, as most of them can be at times, but what you don’t know you certainly wouldn’t miss.
      The intruder story is hilarious, though… The most hostile, barking dogs tend to be ignored when real danger occurs, and the others want to be best friends with the burglars, or sleep through the emergency.

  5. mikeinportc says:

    They’re less trouble than kids. ;)

    nancy : :) . The most dangerous ones are the sleeping ones. ( That you trip over. ) Got some trick-or-treaters that way . The dog was getting old, so her hearing was going, and she slept deeper. She was mostly black, sleeping on the dark red porch rug, as it was warm that Halloween . The 4 kids ( that I wasn’t expecting, as it almost never happened) walked up on the porch, and tripped over her , falling into a heap . Then she woke up barking. :) Fortunately, I was within earshot, so got everybody’s (including the dog’s) nerves calmed, before anything untoward happened.

    They are the best alarm system , and deer repellent going . Bears often seem to avoid dawdling, thus limiting havoc wreaked. [Because they just don't need the annoyance of the yapping mutt? ;) ] Coyotes too, if big enough. [The dog(s)] I did have two burglary attempts (that I know of ) foiled by my son-of-a-St. Bernard. Never seen anybody get to their vehicle so quckly, or drive so fast backwards. Lol! :)

    Never lived in a big city,or heavily built-up subdivision, so maybe it’s different ???? Didn’t have any pets when I lived in Syracuse, but imagining it,it does seem as if it might have been more trouble than it’s worth. Don’t now either, and the un”crimp”ing was nice.

    There’s several nursing homes around (including the originator of the trend) that have pets, or pet visitors. It does help people medically, so not a total freeload.

  6. nancy says:

    My “of course” was meant as an ironic disclaimer. Intruder night, she was just glad to have been rescued from the kennel and “vacation dog camp”. Really though, if you saw her picture posing with our then 6 yr. old you’d go “Awwww”. She’s now RIP but she did help an only child get through childhood. I wanted to take her back to the shelter after one afternoon (she was clearly going to be much larger than I’d anticipated) but she immediately scoped out the situation and slept silently under the kindergartener’s bed. You want to stay, “insinuate yourself with the wee one”—-some dogs really do get the lay of the land. Counsel your neighbors though–no purebreds and stay with something semi-tall. The tiny breeds, I dunno. And you’re right, a lot of dogs are just insufferable but then I always check out the “extended” family.

    • cocktailhag says:

      The “extended” family being the humans, of course.
      I’m so glad I wrote this post; it’s fun to hear dog stories, and their inevitable bittersweet quality.

  7. retzilian says:

    I used to be a dog lover of sorts, knew all the breeds, back when I was a kid and we couldn’t have a dog until I was in junior high. The dog we finally got, also a schnauzer, went to obedience school with me for 6 months, then promptly ran away for the 10th time and was hit by a car. The next schnauzer we got was a female and she didn’t roam, but she also wasn’t much fun.

    Before then, I had a dog-walking service (one of my several businesses as a fledgling entrepreneur – ha!), along with a baby-walking service, not usually simultaneously. I thought I’d definitely have a dog when I was grown-up, but not the babies. Turned out the opposite.

    I owned three different dogs very briefly. I don’t know why I even tried three times, it was always a disaster. The first dog was too big for the apartment, the second too needy and destructive (a beautiful red and white huskie I gave away to a breeder), and the third ran away one day after a year or so.

    I have had 5 male cats, 3 were hilarious and good pets, two were psycho.

    I’ve had birds, fish, turtles, cats, dogs and sea monkeys. Only the cats lasted.

    Now, with my job visiting people in their homes, I absolutely despise dogs and wish I never had to see another one ever again in real life. They are cute as puppies, of course, and many are good animals, don’t get me wrong, but I have come to hate them like the postman.

    • cocktailhag says:

      That’s a very brave stance to take… The PETA types may come after you to throw paint, or worse. I was willing to risk it, and I’m glad you did, too. I’ve also liked about 10% of the cats I’ve known, but those are pretty crappy odds for getting one. Like dogs, they’re beguilingly cute at first, and then you realize the mistake you made and wait, eagerly, a dozen or more years for them to die.
      I think that the lottery has better odds.

  8. retzilian says:

    I have a very funny dog story from my life as an insurance agent. I went to a couple’s home to discuss a long-term care policy and a Med Sup policy and usually when I knock on a door where a dog is on the other side, it barks at me. The dog this couple had was lying in front of the basement door and never moved or even noticed me when I knocked, came in the house or sat down across the table. This dog lay so motionless, I feared it was dead and that the owners would soon notice and that would ruin my whole sales call. There they’d be, all crying over this dead dog, and I’d have to leave.

    I kept my eye on this lump for at least a half an hour as I was doing my presentation. Not a budge, not a yawn, not a snore. I then speculated that perhaps it was a stuffed dog, like the owners had the taxidermist stuff their beloved pet and they parked it at its former favorite spot. Morbid, but possible.

    Eventually, I got distracted and noticed a few minutes later that the lump was missing. He had moved. Whew! Then, I suddenly felt a bump on my leg. The dog was knocking its head against me under the table, and it just sat down on my feet. He was heavy, but I didn’t really mind too much. Until I smelled it. Ok, this dog was alive, but something had crawled up its ass and died for sure. The worst dog farts in history began wafting up my way and it was all I could do not to let my eyes water or start to gag – or laugh. Then, the owners smelt it and apologized for their dog, and then told me (speaking of insurance, as we were), that they had paid over $5,000.00 for a recent sugery on the old mutt to repair its digestive tract.

    I did get the sales and it was worth about half what they paid for their dog to stink up their house, but hey. It’s their money.

  9. Tina says:

    Oh no – shall I board my girls & the blondie before you come visit my lovely new little “furnished” abode?
    What’s a girl to do after reading this rant?
    They are all going to be groomed tomorrow in your honor.
    Yes, Betty ate my fabulous platforms, a roll of paper towel, a box of pills, the carpet, another shoe, a hand bag — there are no words at this point to explain – no words.
    All I can say is the fridge will be stocked for you — but first I must move the wine elsewhere… :)

    • cocktailhag says:

      Aw, Tina, you know I can get along with any ol’ dog, and the girls certainly qualify. Liquor, of course, helps. Can’t wait to see you. You ought to post that picture you sent.

  10. Amanda Whittier says:

    You could have replaced the word “dogs” with “kids” and your post still would have made perfect sense.