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USA Network: Characters Welcome. Shelter Dogs, Not So Much…

Posted by Karel Minor in Uncategorized

You may not be aware of it but there is a good chance you are on one side of a war in which you didn’t even realize you were a combatant. It’s a war that the other side thinks you declared. Like most wars in which we find ourselves, not exactly sure when it began or who we are really fighting against, there is a majority in the middle wondering what is going on while the fringes on both sides fight an existential battle to the death.

It’s a war over animals. And this week, USA Network, which is airing the Westminster Dog Show, suddenly became Alsace and Lorraine in a jostling over territory.

Westminster Dog Club and its annual pure breed extravaganza have long held a funny place in the hearts animal welfare do-gooders. It is the place for top form breeders to show that what they do is as far separated from what back yard breeders and puppy millers do as the Beatles are from the Monkeys. But just like the Beatles, the show probably also serves to inspire anyone with a dog, a little ambition, and a total lack of self-reality to believe that their dog might just breed the next champion. Or least a few $1,200 puppies.

We watch the show like a conservative, closeted politician uses an airport bathroom. With fleeting enjoyment before post-pleasure self-loathing makes us rail on about immorality of the act in which we ourselves have just indulged. One minute we are watching unneutered testicles swinging in the wind, cheering on our favorite class of show dogs. The next we go back to Facebook and sign some mandatory spay/neuter legislation petition. Good old American self-contradiction.

So we shouldn’t be any more surprised than Progressives were when all those Tea Partiers showed up, completely pissed off about the things those pinkos had been saying about them, very personally saying about them. “What? They were actually listening to the stuff I was spouting off?” Alec Baldwin was overheard saying, in utter dismay. Because, yes, all those breeders, farmers, pet store owners, hunters, and anglers have been paying attention to everything we’ve been saying about them.

We know that when we say that every pet should be mandatorily sterilized we mean that in a somewhat esoteric sense. Of course, not every pet. If that were the case, in a couple decades there wouldn’t be any left. We mean every pet owned by some other jerk- you know, especially the ones with funny sounding last names. They didn’t think we really meant all of them, did they?  We just didn’t say it that way. Or that we meant it when we said we’d move to Canada if Bush was re-elected. Because we all know that was just us talking a little smack.

The problem is that they were paying attention every time we vilified them, threatened their livelihoods, said mean things about the quality of their parenting, or worst of all, acted superior to them. Because if there’s one thing people love, it’s some smarmy self-righteous know-it-all with all the answers, with answer number one generally being, “Because I know better than you.” You know, like I’m doing right now.

Oddly, Westminster still provides support to ASPCA with their day ruining St. Sarah commercials. Good Lord, how sad ARE those Pedigree commercials?

When Westminster fired one of their long-time sponsors, Pedigree Dog Food, they believed they were firing back, not taking the first shot. And you know they meant it since they were choosing to not accept their sponsorship money. When someone turns down your money, they really, really mean it.

They really believed that Pedigree’s shelter adoption campaign, chock full of enough sad faced shelter doggies to make Sarah McLachlan cry, “Uncle!” was part of a Psy-Ops campaign against their very existence. They seem to believe that there is actually an effort to bring an end to dog breeding at any level, not just by crappy and cruel puppy mills. Why would they want to have a sponsor who is using their curb appeal to promote its pet food by running ads which they think vilify them and their membership?

Paranoid? Yes, more than a little. But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that there are animal advocates out there who are bat-crap-crazy, say all kinds of super nutty things, and they truly, deeply mean every single word. And just like Democrats have Kucinich and Republicans have Paul, who they love to cheer on but know that they’ll never actually vote for in a big election, the main stream animal folks like us have been known to cheer on the fringy elements, just for a little harmless fun.

However, this knee jerk reaction on Westminster’s part is truly self-defeating- for all of us- because it actually moves those of us in the center closer to the fringes. Instead of watching the show and telling ourselves that that is the way breeding should be done and that we should also consider adopting from a shelter because those sad dogs need a home too, we go knee jerk and turn away from them and the amazing dogs they have to show us. They make us the enemy they think we are because a few snotty comments we’ve made at their expense made them feel bad. We should never underestimate the power of simple hurt feelings.

Poor USA is stuck in the middle. They just thought they would get some ratings on their “we like happy people” network by showing dogs and getting the added benefit of airing some paid pro-shelter dog commercials for Pedigree. Instead they probably can’t air the ads because of their Westminster agreement, pro-shelter people are all bent out of shape at them for airing the show at all, and they are now a scrap of land being fought over by two competing sides in a fight USA certainly doesn’t have a dog in, if you’ll forgive the phrase.

Let’s declare a détente. Even Ronald Reagan worked with Gorbachev where he could while he was trying to overthrow the USSR. Let’s recognize that neither side is facing imminent collapse and try to effect what change we can in our little cold war, but let’s leave the Olympics, or elite level dog shows, out of it. They can show their spectacular dogs and we can all kind of wish we had one. They can let us run our shelter adoption commercials knowing that they won’t stop people from getting pure bred dogs if they actually want them but it might inspire a person to adopt a dog who really needs it.

We won’t call them the Evil Empire; they won’t call us the Great Satan. And then we can both get back into that airport bathroom for a little innocent, guilty fun.

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