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Guest Writer

Enough about you
The worth of a dog
by Rachel Mendez

don't want to make enemies here. There is nothing wrong with having a tiny dog. Some of my best friends have tiny dogs. Honestly!

It's just that we need to acknowledge what's happening here. Some people worry about the onslaught of cell phones or violent video games and wonder what will happen to our society because of them. Me? I wonder about the proliferation of tiny dogs.

When I was a kid, in rural New York, some people had tiny dogs – usually some sort of poodle or Pekingese or Pomeranian. These people were of two types:

1. Rich older women, on TV, who carried their dogs around with them everywhere; and

2. Older women living alone in trailer homes or rundown farmhouses infected with the sour, stale stench from decades of cigarette smoke in rooms where the windows were permanently painted shut and covered with thick, plastic-backed curtains which shed dust like flakes of dry skin whenever touched.

My friend's grandmother, for example, had one of these tiny dogs. It was ratty and gray, a tiny poodle with rust-colored stains streaking out from the corner of its eyes as if it were constantly leaking. The dog fell down the basement stairs one day. After that, it constantly ran around in circles, yipping.

For another example, the ditzy, rich wife on the "Green Acres" sitcom had a tiny dog.

Those were the types of people that I knew to have tiny dogs. Nowadays, tiny dogs are owned by more types of people than I can shake a tiny stick at.

I first noticed this trend because of the number of men I'd see who were walking tiny dogs on narrow, rhinestoned leashes. I had thought I was never one to stereotype, but my first unexamined and rather shameful thought was: I didn't know there were so many gay men with tiny dogs!

My second, equally un-PC, thought was, I didn't know there were so many men who walked their girlfriends' tiny dogs!

And then I realized that my terribly embarrassing initial thoughts were not always true. Some of these men were gay, yes, or straight and girlfriended. But some were straight and single.

They had chosen to have tiny dogs all on their own initiative.

For some reason, feminist though I claim to be, this surprised me. I have so many preconceptions about the type of person who would want to own a tiny dog that I had to stop and examine my own prejudices.

Beyond stereotyping humans, I realized that I was stereotyping the tiny dog – perhaps unfairly.

I realized that I believe a dog's value is measured by its usefulness. To me, a single woman living in a city, a dog has always been a method of protection; the barrier method, to be precise.

To get to me, or my stuff, you'll have to get through this dog. A dog like mine, part German shepherd, part Great Dane and 110 pounds, is an effective barrier method. A dog weighing one pound, two ounces is not.

I can imagine the tiny dog, yapping at an intruder, then taking a foot in the flank and flying across the room with a high-pitched "Yipe." This is not security.

What value, then, does the tiny dog have?

He or she is an accessory, for sure, based on the numbers of young women I've seen exhibiting TPC (Tattoos, Piercings and Chihuahuas). But the tiny dog is also a love object. It is an animate stuffed toy. It moves, it looks at you, it licks you, it curls up in your arms. It loves you and only you.

Best of all, the tiny dog requires no batteries. Sure, it poops. But the poops are so tiny as to be negligible. A friend told me she doesn't even pick up her tiny dog's poops because they are so small that one can hardly even see them. My dog, on the other hand, leaves poops that show up on aerial photos of the city.

My dog also sleeps in my bed, curls up on the couch with me to watch movies and licks the salty sweat from my toes. If we went for a walk, he could carry his own flask of water. In the snow, he could pull a cargo sled. If I got lost journeying through the snow with that sled, he could curl around me and keep me alive through the night.

He is a useful beast, not just a fur trinket.

It's perfectly OK that dogs are now living toys, fashion statements, and/or substitute infants. It's perfectly OK to lavish love, attention and payments to the vet on a dog no bigger than a bottle of beer. Intellectually, I know that. And I will fight for your right to love a tiny dog.

But deep inside, I harbor a secret prejudice. A dog's worth is measured in poundage. A dog should be nearly human in size and able to earn his kibble through acts of heroism and agility.

So maybe, in order to overcome my prejudice, I need the media to step in and help.

In "Lassie," the old TV show, a good-sized dog saved children from wells, chased away escaped convicts and protected the family from an errant lion.

Maybe it's time for a show about a heroic tiny dog, a dog much smaller than Benji. We could call it Peanut, Mighty Mite or Teensy Tim. The tiny dog would prove its worth through acts of courage and cunning that only a tiny dog could muster.

It could crawl into a dirty drainage pipe to rescue a diamond ring, wiggle its way behind the couch to retrieve the remote or find a lost and beloved shoe beneath the bed.

Until then, I'll keep smiling at people out walking their tiny dogs and refuse to allow my mind to think about how similar those tiny dogs on leashes are to yo-yos on strings.

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