Miles from Home

China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Sniffing a Little Ass isn’t Always a Bad Thing

with 2 comments

I was out walking my dog yesterday in the patch of grass behind my apartment building.  I have found lately that I have plenty of time for dog walking since I quit my job.  My twelve pound furry friend Pancho is quite pleased with the new arrangement.

 Anyway, I get back to the fenced in green patch and let Pancho off his leash so that he can choose whatever spot he likes to do his business.  As I release him, a white and black mut of about 30 pounds trots over to him to say hello.  They walk through the normal dog pleasantries.  Each takes a turn sniffing each other’s private parts and rear ends.  While they are taking in each other’s odors, myself and the other owner exchange appropriate human pleasantries, asking each other how it’s going and commenting on how insanely hot it has been lately.  After a couple minutes the dogs seem satisfied, and we all part ways amicably.  The exchange, both canine and human, leave me satisfied.  It’s how the world can work when people are not guarded to the point of distrusting all others around them.

As Pancho continues his search for the perfect spot to relieve himself another dog and owner pair approach.  This time, however, they are on the other side of the black fence that separates the green patch from the sidewalk and the street.  Pancho reacts immediately, except this time he doesn’t saunter over to the other dog for the normal ritualistic exchange.  Instead, he sprints at the dog on the other side of the fence, a labrador mix of some sort.  The physical boundary between them creates a situation where no circling and sniffing can go on.  They bear their teeth and begin growling and barking.  The owner of the other canine glares at me as if to say, “how dare you allow your dog to be off a leash and run up to mine.”  I run up and grab Panch by the collar; the woman opposite the fence drags her dog away as I get ahold of mine.  No words are exchanged. 

Admittedly, the experience was trivial, but illustrative at the same time.  The first interaction was completely positive.  The second experience was tense.  The only difference was a fence in between the dogs and their owners.  Interesting, that all it takes to induce enough fear for dogs to be ready to battle is a fence between them.  I submit that humans are much the same way.

US/Mexican relations strained due to fence building on the border and US/Russian relations blow up at the first mention of a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.

Fences beget separation, separation begets fear, fear begets violence, violence begets hatred which only fuels the violence which increases the fear which also increases the violence.  Anyone who doesn’t believe me is welcome to stop by and take Pancho for a walk or you could just read the newspaper.


Written by bianj

July 25, 2007 at 4:38 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Interesting but I think Frost would argue the opposite is true.

    Mending Wall
    By Robert Frost

    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
    And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
    And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
    The work of hunters is another thing:
    I have come after them and made repair
    Where they have left not one stone on stone,
    But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
    To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
    No one has seen them made or heard them made,
    But at spring mending-time we find them there.
    I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
    And on a day we meet to walk the line
    And set the wall between us once again.
    We keep the wall between us as we go.
    To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
    And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
    We have to use a spell to make them balance:
    “Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
    We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
    Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
    One on a side. It comes to little more:
    He is all pine and I am apple-orchard.
    My apple trees will never get across
    And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
    He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
    Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
    If I could put a notion in his head:
    “Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
    Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
    Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offence.
    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That wants it down!” I could say “Elves” to him,
    But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
    He said it for himself. I see him there,
    Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
    In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
    He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
    Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
    He will not go behind his father’s saying,
    And he likes having thought of it so well
    He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”


    July 25, 2007 at 7:46 pm

  2. Brad,
    I am not so sure, after reading the poem, that Frost believes walls make good neighbors. Rather, it appears to me that he is flabberghasted and a bit intrigued as to why people continue to build walls when “here there are no cows.” His neighbor firmly believes the building and inescapable mending of fences is a positive boundary of human interaction. Yet, Frost himself asks, “And to whom was I like[ly] to give offence?”
    I suppose we live in a world where neighbors are likely to offend, and hence the whole world is building these fences– as Bianj said– along the US-Mex border, in Palestine (by Israeli occupiers), around the streets and suburbs of Iraqi cities, along the EU-imagined border with Turkey, etc, etc. I believe it was Kristoff who recently wrote in the Times that perhaps it has come to a point in history when we must admit that assimilation and integration are not natural human behaviors, and thus difficult and unlikely products of human interaction. Look at the US, has it ever been integrated or fully assimilated? The answer, unfortunately, is a resounding NO.
    I am getting sick from waiting for things to change and grasping the fact that personal efforts aren’t enough to break down all the walls we have built.


    July 26, 2007 at 5:37 am

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