INDEFENSE OF THE MALIGNED CITY DOG

My own city dog, Pye, is a cream-colored standard poodle. Her resemblance to a lamb is not lost on the six- to twelve-year-old set. Herself fond of children and also of being petted, she is likely to be surrounded, when we appear together on the street, with little people. Even smaller people as they are rolled by in their strollers, reach out fat arms and make a brave atttempt to say "doggle." If a glance at the mother reveals that she is smiling, I will call the poodle over to nuzzle the baby. The resulting screams of delight assist me in carrying through sometimes discouraging days. However, there is a darker side to the picture. When I am caught on the street without the dog, I am severely criticized and even threatened. It is fortunate for me that eight-year-olds do not come in larger sizes.

It is in the nature of children to love dogs. However, cities contain a surprising number of older people who hate dogs, often hysterically. Efforts are made to bar dogs from parks and apartment houses and housing developments. Perpetual pressure is put on the police to harass dog owners, and hardliners make no secret of their hope to achieve complete banishment of all dogs from cities.

To my view, these attitudes demonstrate how large cities alienate some inhabitants from their ancient human roots. Men and animals have lived together since the human race emerged at the beck of the Darwinian wand. During my own New York City childhood--and I am still spry--there were as many horses on the streets as automobiles. Policemen's horses were the pets of the neighborhood children. Horse droppings sustained a multitude of English sparrows, who enlivened the air with chirpings and the beating of little wings.

The domestic cats that are now housebound would then slink out at dusk to raid garbage cans, while in the small hours toms would serenade

____________________
An earlier version of this essay appeared in The New York Times, July 3, 1983, Oped page.

-306-

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