Politics and hero worship


You can learn a lot from dogs, from watching them, from doing their bidding, and from interpreting their moods. Teddy, our incumbent pug, is not a political animal, but, as you or I might, he pays attention to serious public policy matters, and in constructing his own positions on national issues, especially issues of war and peace, he searches for instructive commentary wherever he can find it. Like you and me, he has come to want desperately to know what celebrities, especially film and TV stars, say about these issues.

Teddy is a que sera sera sort of pug. His issues have mostly to do with treats (he supports them) and comfort (there should be more of it). He lobbies for greasy pans, pillows, and silky, 600-thread cotton sheets. He is an advocate for himself and his kind in the matter of pug welfare. Like half of the country, he thinks the government in his life is entirely responsible for his well being and that of others of his class, though if there must be a choice made between them and him, he’d like the good stuff to flow his way.

He is not a big supporter of public education, having no patience for book learning or learning of any sort. He abhors violence, although he considers himself perfectly capable of overwhelming much larger dogs one-on-one. (I can tell you, he’s way off on that.)

I am ashamed to report that Teddy does not read. Not newspapers, not magazines, not books, and he does not social network, at least not digitally. He’s more of an olfactory networker. When Moll is busy on her iPad in the evening, he is snoring next to her. In his whole life he’s never gone to a lecture or listened to a politician’s speech. The other night when the Republicans were arguing, Teddy turned in early.

He bases a lot of his public positions on what he hears the stars say on television. If he were on Facebook or Twitter, he’d follow Lassie or friend Mr. Ed. He researches the opinions of the stars and the big box office animals and joins up.

Of course, I suspect Teddy is a Republican at heart. His breed has not descended through the ages with a working dog point of view. He has more of a loafing dog approach to life. He expects servants to provide for him. He comes from an elitist background. He has the I’m-just-hanging-out-here-at-court-with-the-king air about him. He’s a let-me-eat-cake kind of dog. He sides with the rich and powerful beasts the way the GOP does.

For instance, he is addicted to Rin Tin Tin reruns. Teddy loves Rinty. He wishes he could read the new biography of the canine crusader. I told him about the unfortunate circumstances of Rinty’s puppyhood, how he was discovered with his squealing littermates, left behind in a foxhole by the Germans in the war and adopted by a G.I. with a hankering to get into show business. Teddy recoiled. He admired Rinty the screen star, but not Rinty’s base upbringing.

Teddy has the appetites of a neo-con, and apparently Rinty did too. Rinty’s view was that when you have identified the villain, the thing to do is to run right at him and take him down with overwhelming force.

For a long time, Rinty’s views dominated Teddy’s, whose political opinions had a hard edge .

Surprisingly, Teddy was also big on Spot, the federal agent mastiff in the movie. Spot is a trained government enforcer, but he’d like nothing more than to be a kid’s dog. He wants to romp and chase sticks, and Teddy, for all his bellicose airs, seems to appreciate the soul of an animal who wants to love and be loved.

I thought exposing Teddy to less bellicose opinions might help refine his inclinations. Maybe Flipper could be helpful, so I got in touch with Flipper’s people, but it was no use. Flipper is totally apolitical. Swims a lot, strictly fish diet, he’s over kids altogether, never liked dogs, the whole Middle East is just so much sand to him, according to Flipper’s handlers. They said, Don’t bother Flip with this political nonsense, he’s moved on to the Third Way.

Then I noticed that Teddy, who is not terribly discriminating in some ways, let himself fall in with Alf reruns. I don’t know what Teddy thinks Alf is, or even whether it matters, but I do know that Teddy admires Alf’s insouciance. I suspect there’s a little Alf in Teddy, though it’s afraid to come out. Teddy also likes Alf’s unwavering antipathy for cats.

Anyway, Alf apparently thinks that attention to public affairs is a waste of time, just a cynical political fabrication designed to boost one party and cut another before the 2012 election. He apparently said that by the middle of next month, most thoughtful people will be supporting Trigger.

The celebrity who may have a chance to turn Teddy’s thinking around is Lassie, a great favorite with pugs who seem to think that her silky, flowing pelt is a kind of Gilbert and Sullivan costume, absolutely fabulous. All pugs, I gather, have these diva fantasies. But Lassie is the genuine article, a big Democratic party supporter who does benefit rescue performances to raise millions for Democratic candidates. The party listens to what she says. Lassie wants the Democrats to stand up to the Republicans and stop toadying to the rich.

Teddy’s skeptical about Lassie’s politics, but he’s rapturous over Lassie’s rippling coat.