Pondering the Year of the Dog

Our columnist ponders the implications behind an entire year governed by canine instincts.

By Lian Dolan

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2018 is the Year of The Dog and I’m no thought leader in this area, so I can’t tell you exactly what that means and how it impacts your good fortune, but predictions for 2018 called for a period of great kindness and acceptance. (How’s that going, America?) It’s believed in Asian Astrology that you take on the character traits of the animal governing your birth year. Some of you –those born in 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946 and 1934 — are lucky Dogs: loyal, loving, positive and eager for adventure. On the downside, communication is not your strength because, like dogs, all you can do is bark. You bark when you’re happy, you bark when you’re mad and all emotions in between, you bark then, too. But, in the spirit of “You Do You”, get yourself a Tiffany collar and bark away. I’m a Snake; I got nothing to say.

Whether you’re a Dog or not, you’re probably looking around and thinking, “Isn’t every year the Year of the Dog? Because it sure seems like dogs have taken over, um, like, everyplace.” Yes, indeed! Dogs on airplanes, dogs at bars, dogs in coffee shops. Dogs rule Instagram and have the best Twitter accounts. Here in Pasadena, dogs have their own bakeries, their own salons, their own personal trainers. Stores have entire aisles filled with clothing for dogs. (I hope they carry resort wear because dogs will need some when they vacation at the Paradise Pet Lodge) Dogs dress up for Halloween and get Christmas presents. Dogs can join playgroups or have kids read to them at the library or take yoga. There’s even a dog that comes to my weekly dance class. He sits in the corner because he has four feet and that’s no good for ballroom dancing, but still, there’s a dog in my dance class! It seems the Year of the Dog has morphed into the Era of the Dog.

I’m all fur that.

While I may not be a Dog, I’m a dog person and I’ve got a big German shepherd to prove it. Due to a genetic quirk, I’m allergic to most other breeds, so Steffi is my third German shepherd in 25 years of residency which means I’ve walked around the same block approximately 18, 247 times. (And, yes, I bring my own bags because non-compliance to pooper scooper laws is the lowest form of citizenship.) Nobody bothers you when you walk a dog like Steffi, on the other hand, nobody befriends you either. As a result, I’ve had a lot of time to observe the dogs of Pasadena and their people. Over the decades, I’ve watched the preferred breed morph from classic Labs to oodles of Doodles to Bulldogs, French and English. I’ve noted the explosion of tiny little dogs hustling around the Rose Bowl on their tiny little legs. I’ve experienced the bravado of Jack Russell terriers who dare to play in the Big Dog side of the dog park. One thing is true: dogs bring people together, but people should not bring dogs to Trader Joe’s.

As I’ve walked and watched and scooped, I’ve learned to appreciate the two-way bond of the human/dog relationship and even let myself be rescued by my rescue. I talk to my dog, I brush her, I cook her a nice steak occasionally and, in exchange, she protects me from mail carriers, UPS employees and her nemesis dog who lives down the street and has no manners. I feel we have a symbiotic relationship. As a friend said to me the other day, “You’re very close to your dog.” That’s not weird, right?

Now would be the time to shout out to the kind souls who run or volunteer at the Humane Society or animal rescues. A special express lane over Rainbow Bridge awaits you in the far future for your generosity of spirit, but in the meantime, keep doing your good work and I’ll keep writing those checks. As for the dog owners who let their untrained dogs go off leash in public parks, karma is not on your side.

As we head into the final days of the Year of the Dog and examine our place on the planet, let us heed the words of the most famous dog of all: Smile and the world smiles with you. Slobber and they’ll put you outdoors. Good dog, Snoopy. Good dog.

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