It seems as if every other person I know got a dog during the pandemic. A testament to the many perceived positive attributes of man’s best friend.
While we welcomed our dog, Scout, into our family four years ago, I can attest to how much their love can do for a family during the most difficult of times.
Whether in a human home or within their own families or packs, dogs by and large are loyal, cooperative and caring. You bond to a dog in ways that almost sound silly to type, yet for anyone who has ever had a dog, you’ll know it’s not silly at all. They are family.
So why then do we “take their name in vain” in the idioms and metaphors we use to describe our own malevolence?
Take the idiom, “dog eat dog world” for instance. It is meant to communicate our ruthless competitive nature and willingness to do anything to get a leg up on another. Ironically, it derives from a latin phrase, which actually read, “a dog does NOT eat a dog”
Or consider the term, “top dog.” The origin of this term for boss or person of authority stems from a literal dog fight, where one dog lords over another (the aptly named “under dog.”)
To “go to the dogs” is to deteriorate or become bad.
To “be in the dog house” is to be in trouble.
To “turn tail” is to act cowardly and run from danger.
To “call off the dogs” is to stop threatening or acting aggressively towards someone.
And yet still there is just the idea of calling someone a “dog” – a term that can connote any number or ill-befit meanings – unattractive, unfair, unkind chief among them.
Why have we consistently cloaked our own bad behavior under the aegis of an animal with so many admirable qualities?
The irony is that many keys to a good life could be found if we rose above the metaphorical and instead literally acted like our dogs.
Imagine if we greeted everyone with the same enthusiasm our dogs do when we come home each day.
Or if we invited more people to play with us, like our dogs do when they drop a tennis ball at our feet.
Or if we saddled up next to a friend or loved one when they seemed down. Not even needing to say a word, but just to be there for them.
If you have a dog, take a minute today and take a long hard look at how they treat you and others in your family, and imagine what our world would look like if we all followed suit.
If you don’t have a dog, maybe it’s time to join the club.