A Tough Town on Dogs

Damon Runyon

In the course of a long life I have owned many, many dogs and every time I have lost one on which my affection centered I have taken an oath to myself that I would never own another because the experience of loving and losing a favorite is too depressing. Then as time dulled the edge of my sorrow I have invariably found myself looking around for another dog.

It is not unfaithfulness to the memory of the dog that died. On the contrary, I think it is the tribute of a desire for continued canine companionship fostered by the last one. I would not like to be without a dog. I am aware that there are many persons who do not fancy dogs and while I do not understand this feeling, I concede their right to it. Only I wish they might have known little Nubbin when she was well and seen her glad responsiveness to a friendly word or look.

I find myself wandering about peering into the pet shop windows and watching the puppies at play, not at all disheartened by their environment, and wishing I could buy every last one of them and take them home with me.

Generally there are mature dogs, too, and they are a sad spectacle to me because in most cases I imagine they have had owners who for some reason have had to dispose of them and the poor dogs stand gazing around them in a bewildered manner.

I would like to take them home, too. Even more than the puppies they need a friend. They peer anxiously into every passing face, apparently hoping against hope that their old pals will reappear to lead them away. It would worry me if I had to put a dog on the market in that manner, though I am not criticizing those compelled by circumstances to do so.

I notice a lot of unfamiliar canine breeds along the upper-bracket stretches of Fifth and Park and Madison Avenues, being aired by streamlined dames, or by maids or bellhops or janitors. Fashions in dogs are constantly changing in New York. My first dog in the big city over thirty years ago was a Boston Bull, then the last word even among the bong-tong though today it strikes me that the higherly barbered Pagliaccis of dogs, the miniature French Poodles are the thing.

Still, I saw a lady being dragged along by the Colony restaurant by a droopy looking Afghan hound and another was being towed by a huge wire-haired pointing griffon. I saw a pair of miniature Doberman pinschers on Park, the teeniest things you ever clapped eyes on, though the oddest sight I beheld was a fashionably dressed gal with a beagle. The combination looked great, too.

New York has always been a tough town for dogs and it is tougher now than ever before what with a rabies scare in the Bronx that has the cops rounding up dogs not on leashes and arresting and fining the owners. The dogs are destroyed if unclaimed in two days.

The keeping of a dog on a leash does not prevent it from using its teeth, of course, so I would pronounce that regulation asinine did I not always believe that a dog owner should not permit his dog to run loose in a congested area. He should use a leash for control. But the only safeguard against a dog biting is the muzzle as is demonstrated by the fact that in Great Britain where the muzzles are required on dogs at large, there has been no case of rabies in years.

However, our difficulty is we have no muzzle that does not seem inhumane and dog owners squawk about employing them. As far as New York’s safety and the comfort of the dogs is concerned I suppose the solution would be to bar the canines from the big town entirely except in sections where they can be confined in yards. You can readily see what is meant by a dog’s life, though you may not get the impact of the term as I will when the New York dog owners start taking pens in hand to me on that last recommendation.