Every Dog has its day

  • Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta, PTI, London
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  • Updated: Jul 01, 2005 17:57 IST

The first time I heard about the strange juxtaposition of Americans and dogs was when I read about the running dogs of US imperialism in various Marxist publications. Since then and looking around now, we have Pakistan being described as America's hunting dog, Blair being described as US President George Bush's poodle and so on and so forth. I know USA is the hyper-power today and allies/sympathisers of hyper-powers do get more than their fair share of stick. Still, can we call these client states and people as dogs? Surely, that is not so bad, is it? I am a dog lover and as everybody knows, dogs are kind, gentle, loveable, adorable, faithful, beautiful, and intelligent and so on and so forth. Just what is the problem with these people, eh?

First, one thing should be clear. It is human nature to denigrate other people. Swearing seems to be a rather common human trait. However, what I found interesting was this propensity to call people as dogs. As a self-confessed dog lover, I do not understand why people think of dogs as bad. I have had years of dog companionship, they are loveable and adorable. They protect your homes, herd your sheep, listen adoringly to your drivel, hump your legs in sheer joy and widdle all over your nice new carpet, chew on your furniture and lick your ears, leave hair all over your bedspread and your kids cry when they die. I used my little doggie, Koko, as my audience when I used to prepare for my lectures. If he would not sigh, fall asleep, yawn, whine, yowl, or snore, then there was a good chance that the lecture would be good.

"Dogs are good guys", Morley said, "No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does" and Aldous Huxley corroborated, "To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs." Then again, Edward Abbey took a contrarian view saying: "When a man's best friend is his dog, that dog has a problem." Dog is man's best friend, so to say, although a Karel Caprek quote goes: "If dogs could talk, perhaps we'd find it just as hard to get along with them as we do with people." It is a strange thing. People, who are homeless, at least on the streets of London and NY, frequently befriend a dog. It is indeed a sad reflection that we as human beings have forsaken other human beings to such an extent that the only companionship that one can get when completely down is a dog. Then again, the dogs don't really want much, a bit of food, a good scratch and you have a permanent companion.

Dogs are said to have descended from wolves, and scientists are very curious to see the sheer variety of dog breeds around the world. It's a symbiotic relationship with hyper-specialisation by the dogs to fit in better and better with humans. There are sheep dogs, seeing-eye dogs, husky sled pulling dogs, St. Bernard avalanche rescue dogs, drug or explosives sniffing dogs, foot warming dogs, hand warming dogs, guard dogs, lapdogs, truffle hunting dogs, mine sniffing dogs, guide dogs, tasty dogs in South Korea and parts of north eastern India, and take-away meal dogs. Well, the last one isn't strictly true, but one of my recent take away meals was really a dog. Overall, this idea of thinking about dogs as something bad is really mind boggling to me. So, off I went on a digging spree.

One obvious source of this antipathy towards dogs is religion. Strangely enough, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, all see dogs as unclean, scavengers of dead flesh, noisy, greedy, and scaring off people, potential disease carriers, and the like. One may find it surprising but even now; religious Hindu's would consider their body unclean if a dog touches them. When General Musharraf of Pakistan first overthrew the government, he was photographed holding his dogs. One should have heard the howls (pun intended) of protest from the beards. Another historical factor is with respect to wars and battles.

In the good old days, there were no ambulances or war graves commissions. If you were wounded, you would be lucky if you were rescued and given medical treatment. In most cases, the wounded and dead would be left on the battlefield and in most cases, the dogs would descend to clean up those fields. Same with plagues that would decimate entire cities with dogs scavenging the towns and villages. Another major reason for the antipathy towards dogs is their association with rabies. My uncle died from this, so it is personal. Still, a rabid dog bite can send people into madness and death. Therefore, it is no surprise that dogs have a bad name when one associates death, madness, and disease with them, specially scavenging for human flesh.

Mind you, the militants in Iraq obviously overcame their delicate religious sentiments when they attached explosives to a dog and tried to blow up an American convoy. Unfortunately for them (not forgetting the unfortunate end of the dog), the dog decided to sit down for a nice long scratch and nose about some interesting aromas in the corner and thereby the only damage done was to the wall, the pavement and the poor dog. It was during the Iraq war where we saw perfect examples of dog imprecations. I have previously spoken about Baghdad Bob, Saddam Hussein's Information Minister and his amazing turn of speech, but it's worthwhile to repeat couple of his canine gems.

"We're going to drag the drunken junkie nose of Bush through Iraq's desert, him and his follower dog Blair...There are 26 million Saddam's in Iraq" and the second was, "Who is this dog Franks in Qatar?" As can be seen, Comical Ali was referring to dogs in two different ways. The first one was relating to Tony Blair as a dog in the guise of a pet, a follower, an unthinking subordinate, while the second related to the implication that dogs are unclean and all that stuff.

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