Fifty-seven Channels and Nothing On
I have a cold... it's not the end of the world but Jim's gone into over-protective-mother-hen mode and while I'm pretty sure the cold itself won't kill me, I am beginning to wonder just how on earth am I supposed to survive my partner's good intentions. For the time being I'm stuck in front of the TV with nothing to do and specific instructions not to touch my computer while Jim fusses every time I sneeze... and believe me when I say that as things currently stand that amounts to an awful lot of fussing.
Of course, in addition to having to deal with an overprotective sentinel --or rather as a direct consequence of that fact-- I find myself also having to try to come to terms with the fact that I'm stuck watching TV mid-morning when there's absolutely nothing on... and I do mean nothing. In fact the best thing I've been able to find so far is a dog show on Animal Planet. It's not exactly the most thrilling thing I've ever seen but given that the alternatives range mostly from soaps I don't quite understand, to infomercials and a bowling championship --with a couple of really bad movies thrown in for good measure-- I feel like I'm out of options. I mean, we have over a hundred channels, just by the sheer weight of the law of probabilities there should be something more appealing than a dog show in at least one of them... but unfortunately there isn't. On the other hand this experience has served to teach me an interesting lesson: as dull as it can be at times with all its pomp and circumstance, a dog show does have its charm from an anthropological perspective.
Very few things are as telling as the interaction between a human and a pet... that interaction that transcends the barrier between the species and enables the most unusual of partnerships to develop. In a way the whole history of humanity is represented in a dog show. It is interesting to see the contrast between the working dog group and the hunting dog group... and of course then there are the toy breeds that signal the shift from a time in which dogs were required to contribute something to human society to the time when they became mere companions... fashion accessories.
Another thing that is extremely interesting has to do with observing the interaction between the animals and their handlers... just as it is an interesting study to try and see the differences between those who prefer a Chihuahua and those who prefer a mastiff... or at least it is interesting as far as the show's format allows those differences to shine through. Unfortunately in national and international championships it seems that more often than not the dogs are presented by professional handlers rather than by their owners... and that fact is telling in itself.
There is something about the whole atmosphere surrounding the event that I can only describe as bizarre... and the presence of professional dog handlers only serves to emphasize that fact. In a way a world class dog show represents the ultimate snob event, to the point that more often than not the whole purpose of breeding a dog in the first place --to provide help, support or companionship-- seems to have been completely lost somewhere along the way. As trivial as that little fact may seem to be, to me it serves to turn those 'perfect dogs' into a perfect mockery of the ideal they are supposed to represent.
The simple fact is that professional dog breeding and dog shows are an industry... a multi-million dollar industry and --as is usually the case where there is plenty of money to be made-- greed seems to rule over everything else.
I am not denying that their handlers may love those dogs, in fact I'm pretty sure that at least the good ones do, but the fact remains that they know they are not their dogs and that is bound to make a difference. It is ironic that that's the price those dogs pay for being the best.
I don't know why that bothers me so much. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that -- with as much moving around as I did while I was growing up-- having a dog of my own was always my impossible dream. I knew why it would never happen and I truly did understand it, that was never really a problem. The thing is that --even though more often than not there were some dogs around wherever we ended up staying-- as much as I enjoyed playing with them, I always knew they were not mine... I knew that I'd be leaving sooner rather than later.
Anyway, that was a long time ago... it doesn't really matter. The thing is that thanks to a stupid cold I'm stuck watching a dog show of all things and in spite of everything I can't deny that there's a part of me that's enjoying the new experience. No, it's not something I would have chosen to watch under normal circumstances and it's not something I'm looking forward to seeing again either, but maybe just this once it is okay.
Of course, even if I am reluctant to admit it because it seems so childish, I have no choice but to acknowledge that there is yet another thing I'm finding incredibly amusing as I watch a broadcast of a dog show on TV, one that is far less lofty than most of my anthropological ramblings on the matter but that does serve to make the whole experience worthwhile. I am having a ball with the unexpected side effects of FCC rules and other such overreaching bureaucracies and decency advocacy groups in the most innocent places. I know this is supposed to be a family oriented show, I get that, but it's a dog show, and yet the lengths to which the announcers have to go to avoid using the word 'bitch' are truly hilarious.