Offense Taken (But Only Slightly)
By Cadbury FitzPatrick
I was surprised, pleased and impressed at the positive reaction to my first article. One commentator even suggested that I get an agent, but my male human family member said that was not necessary as he was more than capable of handling any financial issues.
I have something I want to say. It is not so much a complaint as an observation. And before I go any further, I want to mention that I am not a part of any political party of any type or persuasion. If I was, it would probably be called the “Food and Water Daily and a Safe, Warm Place to Sleep” party. While I can’t read (contrary to the belief of some in my human family), I am quite sure that somewhere in the United States Constitution there is a provision that would disqualify me from voting. I am perfectly okay with that, particularly given the amount of emotion and drama that surrounded the most recent voting exercise.
I am writing to say that I am offended (but only slightly) by a phrase I heard a politician use a while ago (I heard it repeated on the television recently). Apparently it is a thing these days for humans to get offended often and by and at a lot of things, most of which are just words, even common words, not meant to offend, and sometimes found offensive only by small groups that hold strong views on issues and matters not shared by the majority of others. Given my newly discovered “voice” observing all things human, I thought I’d join in on the fun.
I am offended by the phrase “lying dog-faced pony soldier.” I am fine with the word soldier; one member of my human family served in the U.S. Army and he is a fine, kind, respectable and responsible fellow. Soldiers keep us safe, which would be a major platform issue for my political party, if I had one. I really don’t have a view one way or the other about the word pony. I have never seen or met a horse of any sort, large or small, old or young (I have to be careful here since some of those words can be deemed offensive in some circumstances), and I try not to have opinions on creatures of any sort I have not met – except cats. It’s the rest of the phrase that I question.
I am a dog. I have a dog’s face. I see nothing wrong with that, in fact I am pretty pleased with it. I was born with, and grew into, my face. I had absolutely nothing to do with its choosing. Nothing I could have done (short of trying to chase a parked car) would have changed how it developed, or the colors and arrangements of my markings. My breed is called Australian Shepherd and my coat pattern is called merle, which is basically a random arrangement of colors and patterns. Some humans like the merle pattern, some don’t; it is a matter of personal preference and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest what people other than my human family think about it.
But I digress. Clearly, the use of “dog-faced” in that phrase is meant to be insulting. It modifies “pony soldier,” which as I’ve explained above does not appear to be the active element in the insult. As I understand it, “lying” has historically been a very bad thing and accusing someone of being a liar was something so very serious that humans could take each other to court over what they called charges of “libel” or “slander,” but now its use is apparently so common that it has almost lost its meaning. Therefore, it must not be the real intended core of the insult. Which brings us back to “dog-faced.”
Why should it be considered an insult to say someone has a face like a dog? I for one would be attracted to such a face. And as I note above, there is nothing short of plastic surgery that a person could do about how they look. They were born that way. Is it really fair to judge a person (or an animal for that matter) on the basis of mere outward appearance which they had no way of choosing? That would be as crazy as judging them on the color of their coat or of their skin. What’s more, there is real scientific evidence (look it up) behind the common observation (which we’ve all made; c’mon admit it) that dogs tend to look like their human family members. So, if we look like you, then you look like us, which means you are all dog-faced!
The global dog population is estimated to be 900 million. The current human population is estimated at 7.8 billion. That’s about one dog for every 8 or so humans, a statistically significant relationship. Considering the amount of love and companionship dogs offer their human families, and the importance of that to everyone’s emotional health and well-being during the current pandemic, now may not the time to offer unnecessary offense to the world’s canines. Just saying.
So, perhaps we can all agree to drop dog-face as a pejorative label (acceptable uses include “oh, what a cute face that dog has”). It would also be really good to stop using the words “liar” and “lying” so freely, reserving them for instances when someone is truly intending to deceive or bear false witness. Soldier is a good word and can and should be used frequently and exclusively with positive connotations. As there are only about 60 million horses of all shapes and sizes in the world, ponies are on their own in terms of objecting (good luck with that).
At the risk of repeating myself, I’d like to close with reference to a point I made in my previous article. We dogs have evolved to live comfortably with humans. We bond with our human families and love them unconditionally. Unconditionally, whatever their passing mood or particular circumstances. We do not judge; it’s simply what we do. It’s what makes us happy and gives meaning to our lives. We probably get more from the relationship than our humans do. In many instances our simple presence helps to ease the worries, calm the emotions and soothe the spirits of our human friends. From what I’ve observed, the world could use a lot more of that right now.
(Faithfully transcribed by Cadbury’s human family member, Dan FitzPatrick)