Dogs all around the world are known as Man’s Best Friend, but here in America we literally believe it. It’s a good thing we love them enough to push our vacations to the brink of passive-aggressive disaster.
Go outside right now and head downtown. It’s nearly mid-July now and heat in each of its maddening varieties is in full swing. From that sopping, gluey mess across our amber waves of grain, to the parched, dustier flavors in the West, summer has arrived. Many of us in these climes will don our heads with our preference of regional sports team. In these Northeasterly parts it’s mainly the Patriots or the Red Sox, and since baseball is also now in its midseason, most will stick with America’s pastime.
But with so many different people from across the country on the Vineyard, there’s also a smattering of animal logos, colors, and old English letters. Yankees, Angels, Tigers, Diamondbacks, Padres, Cubs, Pirates, nearly all members of the avian circle, Mariners, Twins, Indians, and even a mountain range sit on top of our heads. But no dogs. Never any dogs.
No one knows exactly where Canis familiaris originated. Northern Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, Australia: each one stakes a claim as the original domesticators of dog, but it’s all beside the point. Dogs all around the world are known as Man’s Best Friend, but here in America we literally believe it. Enough to occasionally put Fido at the dinner table with us; dress him in tight fitting sweaters; drag him across three state lines on vacation along with the family, buy him doggie ice cream, and routinely babble utterly ridiculous fecal requests as if Fido were a week-old constipated infant.
I think this is a purely American extravagance. And it is pervasive, too. In charming little vacation towns, everyone brings the dog. Everyone knows that the 15,000 year-round population on the Vineyard balloons to around 100k in the summer months, but few think to count the dogs. Calculate that, and I’m guessing that there we’ve left out at least 120,000 extra legs from the equation. They ride up front and in the back. They inundate the sidewalks, coat them with a film of froth, and leave their scent hundreds of miles from home on funnier-looking, differently colored fire hydrants. Which is utterly the only thing your dog cares about. Peeing on the hydrant, not that the experience of urinating on one in Massachusetts is any different from the one at the end of the block in New York. He can’t actually tell the difference.
Once, I heard a professor tell a room full of bright-eyed future world leaders that your dog can’t conceive of barking at the mailman who didn’t walk past the window last Thursday. In fact, if you left him at home, Fido wouldn’t even be able to determine that those two sunrises and three sunsets you took for a long weekend, is in fact, a long weekend. He doesn’t know what he’s missing much less understand the bottled up frustration that comes before and after a vacation. Fido is and will always remain a faithful companion, but he literally would only lift his hind leg for you in gratitude for bringing him along for the ride.
And here we arrive at the sobering conclusion Fido gives everything to us and we, perhaps unwittingly, use him like Midwesterners use boats. On vacation near a body of water: should we bring the boat? Dad says yes. Mom sneers. The kids grow silent and avoid eye contact. And two days later, the family is stuck in the middle of the lake for three hours because the discount dinghy Dad bought broke down again. Resentment doesn’t belong on holiday, nor should vacations be performed.
Of course, I merely catch a glimpse of the Lee M Cardholder family vacation walking with their dog down Main Street. But I always wonder where they go and what they do once they leave my line of sight. I can only hope that for Fido’s sake, they spend each and every minute outside allowing his digestive system free reign over the island. Anything less would be a win for the family, a loss for their four-legged friend–not that he understands that anyway.
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