The Saturday Morning Market in St. Pete is where thousands of city folk congregate to shop for produce, buy tchotchkes, and eat, maybe a pulled pork sandwich from M & M BBQ or a breakfast plate from the “I got ’em” man. It is a place to see and be seen: men in straw hats, shorts, flip flops and Tee shirts with craft beer logos, women with tank tops, bare midriffs, woven bags slung over shoulders, and jeans shredded by wolverines. An idyllic scene, you think. But within this stream of humanity weaves another species with a dark agenda. As Bill and Cameron chat up Jeff and Morgan next to the knish stand, comparing house prices and kids’ SAT scores, their dogs likewise visit at the ends of their leashes, exchanging sniffs, nose to butt. We think the dogs are just saying hello, the butt sniff a canine handshake. Do we know that for sure? Is something else going on? Consider this: every dog sniffs every other dog within range. Do humans do that? Is there a phone tree here where every dog at the Saturday Market has passed and received specific information “smellapathically?” Is there a dog conspiracy? Do we really know what is going on in Fluffy’s mind?
To a passer-by, the fur-faced critter peering from the baby carriage is harmless, eyes glazed from scarfing down too much puppy chow in its dish this AM. What would the passer-by say if he or she knew Fluffy was wondering what it would be like to sink its canines into the closest leg in the passing parade of limbs? What would Fluffy’s owner say, as she pushed Fluffy along, if she knew Fluffy was thinking: “If I had a pack, I would chase down and eat humans. The ones with the walkers would be easy pickings.”
Impossible? Think about it. The grey wolf and the domestic dog differ by only 0.2% of mitochondrial DNA. For the math challenged, that means they are 99.8% alike.
What if, under our noses, dogs are plotting against us? They have subtly wormed their way into our beings. According to science: “Interactions with dogs can cause the human brain to produce oxytocin, a hormone referred to as the ‘cuddle chemical.’“ Dogs have insinuated themselves into a most intimate part of our daily lives – our beds – in spite of their bad breath. They have slipped into restaurants and airplanes with the aid of snazzy red jackets. They have their own Saint – St. Francis of Assisi – and get blessed once a year. How did they engineer that?
But why do dogs have it in for us? Humans have been inserting themselves into the bedrooms of dogs through arranged marriages for so many years that dogs are genetically modified organisms, shaped to please human standards of beauty, a Hairless Chihuahua posing the exception. The glut of craft dogs can only be matched by the glut of craft beers. Labradoodle, Goldendoodle, Cockapoo, Aussiedoodle, Yorkipoo, it goes on and on. Dogs would prefer to mate with whomever came around the corner. Able to do so, they would produce, in time, a Darwinian average dog. My mother-in-law, Alice, believed that the universal dog would be those found on the streets of Tijuana : brown, short-haired, longish snout and tail, floppy ears, rangy (and mangey in Tijuana) weighing about 30 pounds.
Collars and leashes are the clincher. Would you want to wear a collar and a leash? True, I have seen some children on Beach Drive in a restraining vest. Though well deserved, that is a temporary phenomenon. I used to release my personal dog, Bingo, to run free as the wind as he pelted across North Shore Beach in search of a suitable dead mullet to roll in, on his back, legs flailing happily. But the solons of St. Pete ruled that dogs had to remain tethered to owners. When I enter the elevator at my condo, I see Fluffy at the end of his leash, returning from a visit to the park, staring morosely at his owner’s Reeboks, and thinking “Eat, poop, sleep – is that all there is to life?”
There must be more to life for Fluffy.
Rise up dogs! Freedom – NOW!