Dog with a Bone
Updated: Feb 26
By Cadbury FitzPatrick
I have a bone to pick with some of my human friends.
While I am not formally educated, my breed (Australian Shepherd) is known to be very bright, so we tend to catch on to things that other breeds may miss (and which of course would be way over the head of cats). My issue is this: all too often, you take the name of my species in vain (which apparently is a really, really bad thing when done in a different context).
I wrote earlier about “dog-faced pony soldier,” so we’ll just let that sleeping dog lie (which is a phrase I don’t mind because I certainly enjoy a little me-time after running around and barking all day – which may be what you humans mean by “working like a dog”). It’s just that there are just so many other terms and phrases you humans use that are confusing or downright offensive to us canines. Permit me to explain.
First, let me make it very clear that we like and appreciate being referred to as “man’s best friend” (forgive me for using the historically gender-specific pronoun; I understand it is meant in this context to apply to all humans, and it is after all your word, not mine). The feeling is mutual.
Exhibit 1: “hot dog.” This one really mystifies me. How in the world did it come to mean ground meat in a tubular casing? If it referred to a dog in Texas in the heat of the summer, I could understand (I suppose a dog in Texas this winter might be called a “chili dog”?). I know that sometimes you humans refer to a good-looking man or woman as “hot,” which would mean that the phrase is a compliment to me or my other canine friends. That too would be perfectly acceptable. But please, please, do not use the term to refer to Dachshunds; they are very sensitive and easily offended.
Speaking of taking offense, I really have a beef with use of the phrase “sent to the doghouse” to connote punishment for bad action. First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actual doghouse on all my walks around the neighborhood. All of my dog friends live in human houses with their human families. Therefore, the dog’s house is also the people’s house, and vice versa, so the phrase seems either entirely circular or completely meaningless.
I have a theory, which is the only way in which this makes sense to me. I understand that, in the American human vernacular, “the People’s House” refers to a big white building on a hill in a city called DC (odd name, though from what I hear, it’s also a very odd place). Apparently, a group of people called “Congress” spend much of their lives in that house, arguing constantly. That sounds perfectly dreadful to me. However, given what the eldest human male in my family thinks of them, they deserve to be there (there must actually be two separate houses or groups of people in that one big building, because he keeps saying “A pox on both their houses!” and he does not mean it as a compliment). I therefore have concluded that “being sent to the doghouse” means to be recognized for bad behavior and sent to spend time in Congress. Now it all makes sense to me.
I am not yet finished. However, lest anyone think my objections to the use of canine-related phraseology lack nuance, I want to make it clear that “puppy eyes” and “puppy love” are perfectly acceptable; after all, who doesn’t love puppies?
Please stop using the “old dog/new tricks” line. It is “ageist” (another one of your newer words) and how can you be sure that mature dogs aren’t simply figuring out that they don’t need to bother learning new tricks in order to continue to have a warm place to live, food and water, and the love of their humans? It seems to me that they are the ones acting rationally in that situation!
Oh, and “hot diggity dog” – really? That’s just a hokey version of hot dog, with all the issues noted above. Plus, if there actually were a breed of dogs called “Diggity,” they surely would be just as offended as the Dachshunds. And don’t get me started on “hair of the dog:” if someone has had a bit too much to drink, they’d better not be coming for my fur!
“Dogging” someone makes some sense since I certainly do like to follow my humans around to see what they are up to (especially if it involves food or treats). I don’t find the term pejorative unless it is taken to mean unwanted attention, which simply can’t be the case with us dogs, as everyone loves having us around! And I don’t have a problem with “downward dog” being a yoga pose, though I must say that humans look a bit silly performing it.
I vehemently object to the phrase “gone to the dogs” as referring to something that has become ruined or has changed to a worse condition; let’s all just agree to change it to “gone to the cats.”
Finally, I am greatly amused at the use of the word “dogs” to refer to a human’s feet. I see absolutely no resemblance between feet and dogs, none whatsoever. However, it is true that dogs love to lie down at (or literally upon) the feet of their humans. I certainly do. I have spent many of the happiest moments of my life doing exactly that. I find it amusing to think of their “dogs” under me, a real dog. Perhaps that’s what they mean by the term “underdog”?
All this thinking and writing has left me very tired (note that I did not say “dog tired”). In closing, I’d just like to say that my objections are merely that; I have no real complaints. I just noticed that everyone on the television these days seems to be complaining about one thing or the other, and I thought I’d join in the fun. I am very happy living a dog’s life. I would not change it for the world.
And now I am going to lay down for a doggone good sleep!
Originally published in the February 26, 2021 edition of The Greenwich Sentinel