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Pop Culture Lessons From A Life Before Dog Ownership

It begins with a shock – a shock into fuzzy consciousness as I feel a tapping at my leg. Something’s stirring, something’s moving, something’s happening.

I roll to the side of the bed in a room still cluttered and unfamiliar after moving into it just two nights ago.

The door opens into a hallway leading clear to the front door, and there she stands waiting for me.

I know what must happen next. My dog needs to go out before I have a stinky surprise in the living room.

Such is my life now. At age 33, I’m a dog owner for the first time.

Now I’m walking more than I have in several years of suburban town life, one of several health benefits. And like bikers giving a sign to each other as they rumble past on their motorcycles, now I see other dog owners and they want to chat.

Guess I’m in the club now. There’s no turning back. I’ve picked up the poop.

As you probably can tell, I’m not the dog person in the family. My cuteness-obsessed wife loves dogs and wanted one, so here we are, and I’m on board. You know – happy wife, happy thing-that-rhymes-with-life. (Nothing rhymes with husband.)

So far I am enjoying the dog owner life, even if it now means that I can’t be out at all random hours, and who knows what I’ll do come vacation time.

But perhaps I can look to pop culture for my dog inspiration?

Even Batman and Superman have had dogs. If it’s good enough for the World’s Finest, it could be good enough for me.

I was more partial to Ace the Bat-Hound, a character from the defanged Batman Family of comics’ silver age. Mostly because it seemed too bizarre.

Superman had Krypto the Superdog. A dog from Krypton that has all of his powers? That’s hilarious and sort-of makes sense. But why the hell would Batman have a dog that joins him in crime fighting?

How much time did it take for Alfred to put the cowl on the dog? If having a boy partner wasn’t enough to give away Batman’s secret identity, surely Bruce Wayne going about town with his young ward and a big-ass German shepherd would have been enough.

Maybe I came up in the wrong time to truly appreciate Ace. In the 1950s and ’60s, the hero dog legacy of Rin Tin Tin and Ace the Wonder Dog was alive and well. Now we have the Internet-fueled focus on cuteness as a virtue more than ferocity, bravery and athleticism; man’s best toy more than man’s best friend.

I can understand the dog as an object of pathos. Even though I didn’t have a dog as a child, I saw Old Yeller and felt sad for the brave, good dog sick with rabies, watching a child come to grips with the death of a loved one. Sometimes, life is cruel that way, and it can’t be helped.

Or to think of Bart Simpson, in the Simpsons episode “Bart’s Dog Gets An F,” near tears at the thought of giving Santa’s Little Helper away if the dog doesn’t pass obedience school. Bart pleads with the dog to understand him. And suddenly, the jumble of human speech turns clear as day when Bart says “blah-blah-blah LAY DOWN.”

Good boy.

Pathos and heart-rending tragedy through a dog in pop culture is fine by me. Sentimental cheese, however, really grinds my gears. You don’t get a pass because you used a pup.

Yes, I love the overall cheese of alien disaster flick Independence Day, but I groaned every time the dog outruns a wall of fire. Dozens killed in the fire, millions turned to ash in the blast, and yet we’re supposed to cheer for the one dog that survived through 1996 CGI and lack of knowing thermodynamics.

Ain’t enough Mighty Dog in the world to out-run and out-jump a wall of fire.

It’s a plothole not as big as Jeff Goldblum uploading a computer virus to an alien spaceship. Amazing stuff in a movie so intent on detail in blowing up the White House while also finding time to have Will Smith coldcock an alien.

Inspector Gadget had more logic to it, and that featured a dog who foiled terrorist plots with 9-year-old girl with a pre-tablet “computer book” by disguising himself as human and using a mixture of gestures and grunts in an approximation of speech.

No wonder they called him Brain. He was smarter than the go-go-gadget man but got none of the credit. Just like a cartoon to teach you that dogs could be smarter than a human.

If anything, a dog can be either cooler than a human or make a human way cooler.

Snake-Eyes on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero already had infinity cool points: ninja, all-black uniform, helmet with visor, vow of silence. And then they gave him a wolf. You know, the creatures that didn’t get turned into dogs by humans — because they escaped.

And Game of Thrones made the Starks seem like nice enough people by the fact that their gigantic, man-eating dire wolves behaved like docile puppies around them.

Of course, they were docile puppies that turned into razor-fanged killing machines at a Stark’s command. It’s a bit too close to that Hitler clone child in The Boys From Brazil.

But hey, I was cheering for the Starks to prevail anyway.

I know my dog and I don’t look as fearsome and cool as Robb Stark and Grey Wind strolling around Winterfell, but maybe?

Yes! Yes I can! Yes I can!

Good dog!

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