Dog spelled backward is God

When I first heard the word “anthropomorphism,” I began to understand all sorts of things that had previously eluded me.

It’s from the Greek words “anthropos” (human being) and “morphe” (form), and it means giving human characteristics to non-human beings and objects.

For example, in all Western religions, God has human form. And it’s not just a human but a male human — an old male human. God’s traditionally referred to as “he,” and in every illustration of him he has lots of white hair and a huge beard.

God’s never a teenager, a woman or a non-white. Ultimately, he’s one of the guys. An omniscient, omnipotent guy, maybe, but a guy nonetheless.

Of course, He Himself didn’t help clarify His status. If anything, He further muddied the waters. When Moses asked him what god he was, all he said was, “I am what I am.” What could be vaguer? Rest assured no cop would ever issue a BOLO with a description like that — at least not if he didn’t want to be the laughing stock of the force till he retired. But it doesn’t matter, because obviously a whole lot of people are perfectly happy with that.

But we sure wouldn’t be if we had to accept a god who was a snake or a stove or an all-knowing ice cube. The old guy God a projection of our own egos, and one we’ve been comfortable with for millenia, and we’re probably no worse for wear for it.

But anthropomorphism can be a real obstacle to healthy living, specifically when walking on Dewey Mountain. I’ve found this out on my walks there.

The trails on Dewey are a town treasure. There are lots of trails, they’re scrupulously maintained, and the woods themselves there are beautiful, with a delightful assortment of wildlife moving about. So they’re perfect for a healthy, happy walk or spin, right? Unfortunately, there’s not a simple yes or no answer to that.

Yes, it’s great to wander around there … as long as you don’t run into anyone with an anthropomorphized dog. If, however, you do meet that combo, all bets are off — especially in my case.

I have three dogs, and I know they’re dogs, not hu-dogs. They’re also not well-trained. Yeah, they’re housebroken, and they like people and are dependable with children. But none of them will consistently return when called, and I can’t predict how they’ll react to other dogs. So they’re always on leash and kept away from other dogs. And that’s no problem. What is a problem is having other people keep their dogs away from mine, because almost no one does.

Why don’t they? Simple — anthropomorphism at its worst.

Those folks may know their dogs aren’t human, but they think the dogs think like people — especially people like themselves. So the owner knows he’d never run over bark at my dogs, then jump on them, snap a little, bark some more and then jump some more. Certainly he knows he’d never want to have my dogs freak and peak, get me and them tangled in their leashes and turn into slavering lunatics. So he assumes his dogs won’t do it, either. And, be it needlessly added, he assumes wrong.

In all fairness, not all the dog owners are like that. Unfortunately, I’ve run into only two exceptions. One is Jay Smith, whose dog Lulu stays by his side all the time, and the other is Jeff Murray, whose dog Pogi actually obeys commands off-leash, including the most important one — heel. All the others I’ve run into there have no control of their dogs off-leash, and even worse, have no clue that they should.

This is not an inconsequential matter. In fact, there can be some dire consequences.

Like what?

The most obvious is dogs getting in a fight, which is always a horror show — for both dogs and owners. Dogs can shred each other in a matter of mere seconds, and people trying to break up a dogfight can, and do, get shredded as well.

But even if the dogs don’t make actual contact with each other, they can raise all sorts of hell. For one thing, tangled leashes can tie up and trip both dogs and owners, and cause some major rope burns in the process. For another thing, those confrontations happen super-fast, One minute I’m waking along, just me and my dogs, la di la, and suddenly there’s some strange dog streaking toward me, barking his fool head off, the sheer shock taking years off my life in the process — years, I might add, that I can no longer afford to take off.

And it’s not just me that’s vulnerable. Have a dog run in front of someone on a bike, and you can have a major disaster. If the rider has enough time, he’ll brake or swerve. If he doesn’t, he’ll hit the dog. And guess what? Either of those things can result in the biker getting tossed from the bike. You may think falling off a bike on a trail (as opposed to asphalt) can’t hurt too much or result in serious injury. But if you’ve ever fallen off a bike in the woods, you know better.

Beyond that, dogs can run off. They might get freaked from a confrontation with another dog, or just see a deer or something wild and tear off after it. And guess what? Lots of dogs don’t have good senses of direction or homing instincts, and they can — and do — streak into the forest primeval, get lost and stay lost.

Finally, there’s a legal issue. Dewey Mountain is partly within the village limits and thus is subject to village laws, one of which is dogs are required to be on leashes. Period. And almost everyone obeys it … when in the village itself. But on Dewey, it’s a whole different ball game. Both bike rider and dog are runnin’ free in the ADK. After all, they think, Noah John Rondeau never leashed a dog, nor did Mountain Phelps. Of course, Rondeau wintered over in a primitive hut, and Phelps took potshots at strangers, but this is historical record at its selective best.

Ultimately, the issue isn’t a legal one so much as an ethical and practical one. First, if you can’t control your dog off leash, it’s your duty to keep it on leash. Practically, it’s the least costly option — in physical, emotional, and monetary terms.

I know a lot of the Anthropomorphs will say if I have such a hassle with other people’s dogs, why don’t I walk somewhere else? Well, guess what? That’s a specious argument. It’s like if your kid gets busted for shoplifting and you say the merchant should keep his wares more secure. The real issue is it’s not the merchant’s job to make sure your kid behaves. That’s your responsibility. And guess who’s responsible for keeping your dog away from everyone else’s? Rhetorical question, that.

So do I think this leash lecture of mine will make any difference?

No, not really.

And it’s due to the power of anthropomorphism.

God is gonna stay an old man with a head of white hair and a beard down to his pupik, people are will keep thinking their dog, good ole Bowser or Rex or Fifi, would never cause any kind of trouble — until it does.