“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 43: Bipartisan Pet Politics

I read somewhere once that in France, conservatives tend to choose dogs as their pets, while leftists prefer cats.

I once tried to conduct a casual study: to try to sneak a peak at what newspaper the pet's companion was reading at the café: Le Figaro, or Libération.  I saw no obvious pattern.

The other problem, of course, was that the cat's people were generally far from view, keeping their politics to themselves.  If the cat was the pet in residence at a particular hotel or café, its people were working, not sitting around reading the paper. 

At home in the U.S., I haven't found any obvious patterns.  I've known people across the political spectrum to prefer the same pedigree, say, the affable golden retriever.  And one's social class isn't always evident either, beyond the big-ticket markers, such as the car the animal came in on.  Still, it's hard to generalize.  I've seen people with modest incomes splurge on expensive show dog quality breeds, and I've seen well-to-do people rescue abused mixed-breeds and cats.  People across the political divide volunteer at animal shelters--people with nothing in common beyond their shared love of animals and their shared enemy: the people who hurt their own pets.

Among the many things I learned in those exciting first days of pup socialization with Zoe, when I would strike up a conversation with anyone who came by who had a dog, was that a dog gets you outside your own echo chamber.  When you walk your dog in a dog park or another lively, dog-friendly setting, like the campus behind our house, when your dog joins the pack, for a day, or if you're lucky, for a season, you don't need to agree on who should be the next president. 

In the early days, Zoe and I regularly walked with two golden retrievers, one old and one young, and a dog with so many breeds in its mix that I wouldn't be able to give you a picture here--just trust me, we're talking mongrel.  The two goldens were with her most often, and to this day the golden is a breed she knows to be reliably friendly.  The two people who owned these two different dogs, the elder and the younger, had almost nothing in common except their love of golden retrievers.

During the 2004 election, I wondered if the people in our pack would continue to get along.  I sensed we had conflicting views, but I didn't know for sure.  When politics finally came up one day, we discovered we had one centrist Democrat woman, one very-leftist woman, a registered Republican, and an Independent who was still not sure who to vote for.  We also found out that the Republican was very devoutly Catholic, as was the Democrat.  For a short spell, a Wiccan joined us, (forgive the pun) but then she moved out of town.  The very mixed breed dog's person was living with a transgendered person who was beginning to identify as female, but hadn't begun the medical procedures.  The woman's extremely conservative parents had been so happy when their daughter, formerly a lesbian, brought home a male partner, but that was all about to change.

All that mattered in our makeshift pack was whether the dogs got along. If your dog played well with others, you were in.  If your dog was a bully, you had to exclude yourself.  No one, in my memory, was ever asked to leave.  The people just knew.  It was all done amicably, although everyone felt sad about it when a certain configuration had to change.

Near the end of Zoe's first summer, she met a springer spaniel named Cooper.  The two became very good friends, and in doing so, their human female companions became friends too.  I would not have any reason to know Pat, who walks dogs with me mostly in the summer and fall, if it weren't for Zoe and Cooper having met one day in the woods and deciding spontaneously to chase each other.  By the following summer, the four of us were walking for 90 minutes every afternoon.  That's a long time for two people, previously strangers, to make conversation.  At first the dogs were our primary topic.  We never ran out of things to discuss.

Pat and I vote the same way, but we really didn't know this about each other until 2008, when the election was our shared obsession. For the five years leading up to that fall, we had too many other things to look at on our wooded walks, and too many other things to say.
Sometimes the two would carry the same stick out of the water

Cooper is an excellent swimmer, and he gave Zoe tips

1 comment:

  1. Cooper for President!
    Zoe Ambassador of Obamacare!