Two years ago, checking out condos before returning to live in Philadelphia, we became especially interested in one having many features we were looking for. Located in a nicely designed building and positioned well for attractive views, the unit combined efficiency with ample space. All the stars seemed in proper alignment for a quick and positive decision, except for one thing.
Reading over the various policies governing the building, I came across something unexpected: ”Pets Welcome.” Those two words made me, a confirmed dog lover, stop to think. As I was growing up and going to school, our family always owned a dog, three in the course of those active years. Playful, loving creatures all, they and I always had good times together. I regarded them not as pets, but as parts of the family. Besides, having no siblings to blame for my occasional rowdiness, I could always claim they goaded me on.
A few homebound neighbors, however, also dog owners, allowed theirs outside at all hours, where they sometimes disrupted evening tranquility with barks and howls. As a result, while I loved being around dogs who were fun, I disliked the undisciplined ones, the silence shatterers. Considering the proximity of neighbors in a condominium building, I was concerned about the possible noise factor. Ironically, the presence of animals I had such an affinity for made us re-think moving to a place we really liked. But, on closer investigation, the insulation of the building seemed good, and during our visits prior to decision-making, I heard no racket at all. Despite that brief hesitation, we had found our new home.
Today, I enjoy encountering neighbors whose pets are taking them out for strolls. I’m intrigued by the exotic breeds I see straining against their leashes. When I was a kid in my West Philly neighborhood, most people owned either fox terriers or police dogs. Here? At the condo building, try Australian sheep dogs, pugs, and a bewildering number of poodle mixes. It’s a refuge for types I had no idea even existed.
Besides their pedigrees, something else about these pets intrigues me. Practically all the animals I meet seem to have internal sensors that allow them infallibly to differentiate between people who like them and those who are stand-offish and wary of proximity to four-legged furry creatures. Maybe it’s the pheromones the dogs detect, or maybe in canines, there’s an inbred sensitivity to genuine human affection directed their way. In my case, clearly, they somehow recognize my positive response to them. Often, they approach me eagerly, tails wagging furiously and straining against their owners’ hold. These people sometimes apologize for their animals’ impulsive desire to adopt me, but I assure them the feeling is mutual. Actually, there are times I really wish I could take one of them with me, but good sense prevails. I don’t have to own any of these enthusiastically out-going creatures; being their occasional pal is satisfying in its own way.
Canine perception, I believe, is a mysterious and distinctly underrated quality. For example, we take for granted the ability of dogs to sniff out concealed narcotics and to provide comfort and companionship to those needing them. They have an uncanny ability, in many cases, to make our lives more positive.
It’s possible they have additional, unexplored potential. Motivated by pressures of a worrisome world, I’ve been mulling over a particular scenario in which dogs play a central role in defusing an on-going political threat. In the vetting process for Supreme Court nominees, human evaluations of answers to questions would no longer be of primary importance. Why? Because we know, for example, concerning the pending demolition of Roe vs. Wade, that some current Justices, captivated by the lure of confirmation rather than any obligation to truth, kicked honesty in the gut when quizzed on their ability to be impartial regarding a woman’s right to control her own body. That these High Court wannabes are entitled to their personal opinions I don’t question. Lack of probity about existence of those opinions and their consequent assault on established law, I totally reject. Because some people who make and interpret law regard truth to be as twistable as a soft pretzel, changes must be made.
Maybe confirmation to the High Court should depend on meeting an additional requirement, specifically a candidate’s passing the dog perception test I’ve devised. One of my intuitively sensitive animals would sit at the feet of an interrogated individual in order to detect dissonance between truth and what that person is mouthing for public consumption. Let’s say the candidate is being queried about whether personal religious or moral beliefs would supersede existing law in a case involving abortion. Any tampering with truth would activate the dog’s internal integrity detector, causing it to slink away, maybe even growl and bare its teeth. These reactions would instantly expose individuals who try to tempt them with the sweet treats of falsehoods, then, later, when a vote is actually taken, plan to snatch them back with a casual, “Just kidding!”
Considering how deficient humans have become in assessing degrees of virtue in their peers, I’m ready to turn over part of that judgment to our pets, who are obviously less gullible and more discerning than many of their human counterparts.
Now, I have to devise a strategy for gaining public approval of my somewhat radical plan. It’s a long shot, but in the absence of anything more promising, it’s worth a try. Wouldn’t you prefer that decisions requiring perception of intellectual integrity rest in the paws of an Australian sheep dog rather than in the slimy mitts of Mitch McConnell and his pack of truth abusers? I thought so!