"I am further of opinion that it would be better for us to have [no laws] at all than to have them in so prodigious numbers as we have." ~ Michel de Montaigne
Of Dogs and Men
Column by Paul Hein.
Exclusive to STR
We have two dogs. They are both miniature poodles, pure-bred, with papers (gosh!). What I am about to reveal now may make you despise me and my dogs, but at least give me credit for honesty: our dogs are defective. I cringe to admit it, but it’s true.
A poodle, I have learned from the appropriate authorities, may be any color (although white is preferred) but the color must be solid. Our black poodle has a blaze of white on his chest. When I take him for a walk, people will often point to him and snicker, but I’ve learned to live with the derision. Not only that--he isn’t square. A poodle should be about as tall as he is long, and our black poodle is somewhat longer than he is tall. It is almost more than I can bear.
The other poodle is slightly smaller, and white. However, along his back is a faint, but just discernable smear of cream, or “apricot” color. Apricot is an “acceptable” color for a poodle, but not preferred. But, as I noted above, a poodle must be a solid color, so our white poodle’s faint apricot streak would probably disqualify him for serious consideration in any contest of poodle-ness. In addition, his muzzle is a little short, and not the elongated, aristocratic muzzle of the perfect poodle. Fortunately, both poodles have been neutered, so at least we don’t have to face the possibility that they may pass on their ghastly defects to another generation. To cap the climax, neither animal has the required poodle clip. In fact, they are usually in need of a grooming, looking like curly mops. NOT acceptable!!
You may well ask why we tolerate the presence of such animals in our house. Admittedly, they are fun-loving and affectionate pets, and we derive much enjoyment from them. But there are standards--laws, if you will--that regulate what is proper to poodles, and our pets are, sadly, illicit. We thank God that the poodle-police have not, as yet, swooped down upon us to seize our dogs and transport them to a canine Guantanamo.
No, wait a minute. Let’s get real. The truth is that there are no poodle-police, and no canine Guantanamo. There are, as I have indicated, “laws” relating to what is, and what isn’t, acceptable in poodles. You may have a plaid poodle with very long legs and a short body that would make the judge at the dog show collapse in horror. It’s OK. There’s nothing he can do about it, even if he wanted to. Adherence to the poodle laws is entirely voluntary. If you want to enter your poodle in a dog show, the “laws” apply. Otherwise, nobody cares. Just think: freedom for poodles--and their owners!
There are standards and “laws” for humans as well. They are often incomprehensible, sometimes mutually contradictory, and frequently vague and confusing. Not to worry, though, there are judges to interpret the laws for us, and their opinions, unlike those of the dog-show judges, are binding. You may wonder at the difference. If you choose not to enter dog shows, you can, with impunity, utterly disregard the standards set for the various breeds. If you choose not to be a “citizen,” however, it doesn’t work that way. You and your behavior will be judged anyway, and God help you if you don’t meet the standards set by the distant and anonymous rule-makers.
What’s the difference? Don’t our rulers govern us with the consent of the governed? I’ve never been asked for my consent. Should I attempt to withdraw it, I’d quickly find out the real difference: in a word, violence. If I’m walking my poodles and everyone we meet is a fully qualified dog-show judge, specializing in poodles, who is utterly aghast at what he sees, he can’t raise a finger to stop me, destroy my dogs, or punish me for owning them. But if I’m walking with a slogan on my shirt, or a motto on a sign, or a cigarette in my mouth, offending anybody, I can be arrested and punished for violating some “law.” It’s OK with me if groups of people want to publish their opinions regarding what is acceptable or not acceptable speech, or behavior. They can even strongly urge us to accept their standards. What isn’t OK is their assumption of the right to use force to bring about compliance with their wishes. In fact, the rule-makers of human society take it for granted that they can use whatever violence it takes to shape society into the image they prefer. If you look into it, you’ll find that they have this right to use violence because--they gave it to themselves. I wasn’t consulted, and I doubt that you were, either. Because a statute is “the written will of the legislature,” they don’t need to consult us, or gain our consent, although they pretend the opposite. (I hope the poodle connoisseurs never get into the legislature. If they do, our dogs are dust!)
The depressing fact about our “free” society is that if you decide to opt out of it, without harming a soul or damaging anybody’s property, you might find yourself pepper-sprayed, tasered, or water-boarded in some foreign torture chamber. The New Hampshire motto needs changing, from Live Free Or Die, to Live Free AND Die!
The poodles have it better.