Mother Jones illustration; Ospan Ali/Unsplash; Ruby Schmank/Unsplash
When I say that I hate dogs, I don’t mean that I hate your dog. I mean that I dislike ill-behaved dogs. I mean that I’m actually a little bit scared of them, and they can sense my nervousness, and so we tend not to get along. I mean that I hate dog culture—the relentless prioritization of dogs’ needs over humans’, and the suggestion that anyone who doesn’t want their face licked by some oversized mutt is a monster.
This issue of our societal permissiveness toward dangerous dogs recently came up at work. During his tenure, President Joe Biden has brought two violent dogs into the White House, where thousands of people go to work every day. Last month, a conservative watchdog group released records showing that Biden’s German shepherd Commander attacked Secret Service members 10 times between October 2022 and January. And in 2021, Major Biden, another German shepherd, was exiled to Delaware after his own biting spree. When my colleague Inae Oh surveyed Mother Jones readers about how the Bidens should handle the situation, I was baffled by the responses.
Several respondents suggested that Commander must be able to sniff out Trump allies, as if those people deserve to be savaged by an untrained dog. The notion that a dog is a reliable judge of character is symptomatic of a dog-obsessed society; a subset of our population genuinely believes that the dog is always right.
I think the president should take a stand against this. Biden should set an example for the rest of the country by getting his animals under control or getting them out of the White House, away from an active workplace where they’ve been known to hurt people. He should make it clear that no one needs to tolerate an unruly dog. He should give a grand speech—I’ll write it, don’t worry—on how this country’s canine-first attitude is, although not a top legislative issue, extremely annoying.
I am allowing Biden to take the moderate position here, as usual. He does not need to say he hates dogs. He can simply state the obvious: It’s a dog’s world, and we’re just living in it, no matter how dangerous, dirty, or disrespectful it may be. (Hating dogs, by the way, is just another thing Trump ruined.)
Some will read this and pretend they don’t know what I’m talking about. Come on. You’ve experienced dogs’ indiscretions. You’ve stepped on their shit in the street. And it’s not their fault: Behind every misbehaving dog is a human victim of dog culture, an individual whose mind is too warped by dog-love to consider the well-being of their fellow humans or the dog itself. In a world of doggy day care, dog parades, and dog spas, can you really blame some people for starting to believe that dogs are a little better than the rest of us?
Some of us act like dogs rule the world. Often, when I’m out with a friend, strolling down the street or sitting down at a restaurant, a dog walks by, and the friend interrupts our conversation to freak out about the dog. They might exclaim what a cute dog it is, or go up to the owner asking to pet it, initiating a protracted conversation about the animal’s age, sex, weight, breed, temperament, and grooming requirements. What I want to say to my friend, but never manage to spit out, is, “Have you never seen a fucking dog before?” Calm down. Why are you so excited? It’s a dog.
I think, if I were a dog owner, that I would be annoyed by people stopping me every two blocks to fawn over my pet. But I’m not a dog owner, so I’m unable to comprehend the sense of superiority and entitlement that governs their day-to-day. Imagine going through a life with a rambunctious dog and insisting to every stranger she attacks that “She’s really sweet!” Imagine dragging your dog into restaurants with a fake “service animal” vest, thereby making it harder for people who actually do need service animals to prove that they’re not just pets. Imagine bringing your dog into a wilderness area, ignoring the leash requirements, and acting surprised when your dog won’t stop chasing birds or digging up plants.
We allow dogs to act like assholes. Enough. End dog culture now.
(This is my last day after many years of blogging at Mother Jones. I’ll miss you all. And if you disagree with this post, you and your dog can bite me.)