Canine culture

When a dog looks at you, you know he is not judging you.

– Eckhart Tolle, Canadian spiritual teacher

It was in the 1930s that the dog-eat-dog world surfaced in defiance of the Latin aphorism canis caninam non est (dog will not eat dog) when society started becoming ever so vicious. It gets worse every decade.

The canine, not simian, fixation with metaphors and euphemisms has dogged us for centuries on end. Darwinism has left no impression perhaps with wordsmiths.

Attack dogs are adept at taking orders without question in the trenches which unleash hell upon the unsuspecting at the drop of a pin. They usually love blood and are prepared to shed theirs as well to satisfy their masters.

Guard dogs with their menacing looks require no other attribute but to keep the contender quiet and satisfied (read: mortal fear). They are well fed, of course, and their eating habits aid and assist their growl and scary facades.

Lap dogs make their masters look very human. These are luxury items trained and fashioned to put in a word here and there to the master about some matter that can affect the master’s good fortunes and future.

George Will, the American columnist labelled Bush 43 as a lap dog constantly attending Republican gatherings with a loyal “arf”.

Yellow dogs usually exhibit fear and are easy to control. They look fierce and feisty, but their fear gene is extremely strong. Looks can be deceptive. A good leader makes sure a yellow dog is always an asset.

But it can’t get any worse than a running dog, the best trait in an unprincipled person who flatters those more powerful and often evil. Crooked as a dog’s hind leg describes all the dishonesty that abounds in leadership.

All said and done, the animal instinct defies reason. Leaders are said to depend on this because after all reason can be deceptive and defective depending on the circumstances at hand. Ayn Rand said “reason is the most naïve of all superstitions”.

The United States Supreme Court found it necessary to describe sentencing guidelines by the Congress with a vitriolic metaphor — “the sentencing tail must not wag the offense dog” — and it set the pace and tone for judicially inspired sentencing without legislative fiat.

Unconstitutional wagging of an offensive tail can be a bone of contention. Scholars opine that whenever a new amendment is being attempted it is akin to a dog looking at a new bone.

Figuratively, a “dog whistle” is attributed to those who have a keen ear to words and phrases that are usually missed by the hoi polloi. Those blessed with this whistle sense are usually in advisory positions to leadership. They can read a coded message effortlessly.

It is said that President JFK asked for his Welsh terrier Charlie to be brought into the Oval Office when the Cuban missile crisis was heating up. After petting Charlie, a relaxed JFK returned him to the kennel and said, “guess it’s time to make some decisions”. A man’s best friend.

When Prince Charles visited the White House, President Nixon made sure his Irish Setter — King Timahoe — was simply addressed as Timahoe. After all, one can’t have a prince outranked by a dog!

President FDR was accused by Republicans for having sent a destroyer, at great expense, to retrieve his Scottie, Fala, accidentally left behind on an island in Alaska. FDR gingerly observed: “The Republicans have not been content to attack me and my family. Now they attack my dog. I don’t resent attacks like that, but my dog does.”

Locally, the Year of the Dog witnessed the rapper Wee Meng Chee in hot water when his “Like a Dog” videos were deemed insulting and derogatory to our local culture. Nobody blamed the RSPCA for not helping him.

I have always wondered how the canine world expresses its own take on the human being. I am sure it does, and if its language could be understood, we would have hit a milestone that could eclipse the so-called lunar landing.

The inability to make decisions is measured like a blind dog in a meat market. The dog in the manger, a person who has no use or need of a possession, yet would not have others take it for their own use.

Doggone it! I am off to the pub for a hair of the dog as I conclude this like a dog with two tails.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.