A Word about Dogs

by Jonah Goldberg

It’s hardly a secret that I like dogs. If you’ve been reading me a while, you know I like to write about dogs. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I tweet daily happenings with my canine companions. I also retweet lots of dog-related stuff from other accounts. One of the reasons I do this is that, again, I like dogs. Another, more mercenary, reason is that so do lots of other people, and it’s a good way to build up followers without giving-in to the worst aspects of social media. A few people complain, but far more complain when I don’t tweet about dogs. I have no problem with people not liking all the dog stuff. My only response is don’t expect me to stop. I’m a “love me, love my dog love” kinda guy.

But there’s a political, or maybe philosophical, reason I write and tweet about dogs. Save for a few narrow municipal zoning questions, dogs are immune to politics. They are upstream to politics and prior to ideology (as I wrote at some length here).

This doesn’t mean that some people — I call them “joyless ass aches” — can’t try. No doubt there are some Marxist-Leninist types who decry dog ownership as a distraction from the struggle or a symbol of bourgeois something or other. But, as far as I can tell, no one likes these people or listens to them. A few animal-rights types try to go too far the other way and turn dogs into de facto people. That’s all nonsense too.

The goodness of dogs can’t be easily summarized because good things are good for many reasons. They are good because dogs are good. They evolved (long before they were bred) to be our partners in this life (as I wrote here). As long as you are good to them, they don’t care whether you are rich or poor, black or white, successful or mediocre. They are all gemeinschaft without an iota of gesellschaft, by which I mean the artificial worlds of politics and commerce are entirely invisible to them. It’s all community and companionship.

Socially, dogs play a similar role for me that sports do for lots of folks. Two sports fans who disagree on everything and come from totally different walks of life can still talk to each other about sports. Which is why sports are one of the most underappreciated and important frequencies of civil society, cutting across partisanship, income inequality, race, etc. (I see this all the time at my cigar shop, where incredibly diverse people spend hours talking about football, baseball, etc. — which I wrote about here). I can talk to strangers about their dogs far longer and with more enthusiasm than I can about their children. I shudder to think how much time I’ve spent chatting to actual dogs, particularly ones who lean their heads out of the window in the car next to me in traffic.

Anyway, I didn’t really intend to go on this long. Dogs are on my mind because I just got back from two weeks out of town, sans canines. My wife and I talked about our dogs perhaps an unhealthy amount. And the entire time, people on Twitter were telling me that they missed the canine updates and wanted more dog tweets, suggesting at least some people missed Zoë and Pippa, too.

My original intent for this post was just to plug one of my favorite Twitter feeds these days, “The Dogist.” It apparently started on Instagram, and there’s even documentary about it. The Dogist is run by Elias Weiss Friedman — a photographer who just wanders the earth Caine-like, taking lovely pictures of dogs. Each tweet contains at most a sentence or two about the dog.

I find myself scrolling through Friedman’s feed quite often. I swear it lowers my blood pressure. Each description is almost precisely what someone would tell me if I asked them about their dog. There’s not an ounce of politics to any of it, which is as it should be. Dogs are too good for that.

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