A Reading from the Book of Face: Dog Moms and Dads Don’t Use Bad Words
From the May 2018 Issue of ShowSight. CLICK TO SUBSCRIBE,
A few years ago, I received a Facebook message from a local man who asked if he could stop by to meet my dogs. He worked in the next town and hoped to spend time getting acquainted with the breed that I’ve enjoyed for 35 years. On the day he came to visit, he turned out to be a knowledgeable individual whom the dogs took to instantly. He had a wonderful manner with my dogs and seemed to understand the breed’s complicated relationship with strangers. (Whenever he ignored them, their desire for his attention only increased!) Our conversation was only slightly less convoluted. As we talked, I became aware of the dual nature of our conversation. As I discussed breed–specific characteristics using terms such as ringlet and puce, he spoke effusively about how much he adored his previous dogs. He waxed poetic about the love he had for his girls, as I referred to mine as bitches. “Oh, I can’t use that word,” he said. “I just don’t feel comfortable saying the ‘B’ word.”
When I first got on Facebook I was confused by many of the posts I read. I couldn’t understand why some people were using social media to write messages to their mothers. I found it particularly strange that so many posts began with the salutation, “Mom.” (I always thought that mothers appreciated a phone call from their adult children.) Time and time again I read curious messages addressed to “mom” that mentioned everything from being hungry or bored to being unhappy with some aspect of daily life. I was initially confused until I realized that all of these posts were accompanied by a photo of a dog that appeared either guilty or forlorn. I eventually understood that these people were posting Facebook messages not to their own mothers, but rather to themselves in the voice of their dogs. For example, “Mom, are you going to give me some of that turkey dinner that’s sitting on the counter?” This kind of digital declaration demonstrated to me that it’s not just “pet people” that talk about their dogs as though they are human. Social media has transformed some serious dog people into dog moms and dads!
For better or worse, some of the very same people who initially decried the use of the term “furbaby” now publicly expose their internal anthropomorphism through self-addressed letters in the voice of their own animals. As charming as these Facebook posts may be, their virtual delivery reveals just how effective the animal rights’ movement has been in altering our view of both our dogs and ourselves. Social media has revealed that many of us who’ve pledged allegiance to the breed standards really view our dogs as children—not breeding stock. Some dog folk have proven that they are every bit as likely to abstain from using the “B” word as are the people who schedule a kennel visit. After all, how many breeders’ websites have pages for “Our Girls” and “Our Boys?” This shift in our vocabulary may seem insignificant to some, but it is symptomatic of a larger societal movement away from the keeping of dogs as companion animals towards a belief that we are all “pet parents” whose “children” just happen to have fur and four legs. These treasured girls and boys have rights and they should be pampered, not petted. (And it doesn’t hurt if they have a hard–luck rescue story that puts Oliver Twist to shame.)
In the not–too–distant future, this New World view of dogs as children could impact our sport in ways unforeseen. Societal pressure could one day force ring stewards to call for the Puppy Boy 6–9 Class and the Open Girl Class. (Bred–By–Exhibitor Classes might well be eliminated when it is declared that all deserving dogs are “rescued” and not actually bred.) There may even come a day when dogs are brought into the show ring in strollers and baby backpacks instead of on collars and leads. Although this suggestion seems ridiculous to today’s serious fanciers, the dog–loving public has an increasing appetite for contests that are high on “cute” and low on conformation. To a growing number of people, every dog deserves a ribbon and the idea that one dog is more deserving than another seems utterly implausible, if not reprehensible. Through social media, this attitude is reinforced by those charming—but not so innocuous—odes to mom. Each post shakes the very foundation upon which our sport is built. They have the ability to change our understanding and appreciation of the dog and wipe out the legacy of our shared relationship that has developed over tens of thousands of years. To serious fanciers, our love for dogs is best expressed through breed preservation that includes the language we use to honor our common history. It shouldn’t be minimized by the use of cute terms of endearment, thoughtlessly typed and posted along with an equally cute photo. Cute is for kids. B is for bitches.