Unlike that pathetic big-dog fantasy of lupine independence, smaller dogs make no bones about the fact that they are biologically superfluous. With the possible exception of the dachshund (a prince among pooches if ever there was one), small dogs have been bred to the point of obsolescence. They are merely ornamental and, set free, would spend their brief and brutish lives in a futile crouch, awaiting that inevitable day when they arrive on a raccoon's bad side, or worse.
What, you think a German shepherd is any different? Then take a look at the feral packs of broken halfbreeds scavenging the alleys of Mexico City or Bucharest. You'll see: Small dogs keep us honest.
Unlike the larger breeds, papillons and Chihuahuas make no attempt to veil the fact that they are utterly dependent upon their masters. Napping their lives away in Louis Vuitton totes, mindlessly running after tennis balls and getting gussied up like a cheap reindeer for the holidays it would be easy to conclude that the modern dog has outlived its biological purpose. Standing outside evolution's continuum, today's dog exists only as an observer, an accessory to Earth's most successful species.
This may be true, but even if modern dogs are biologically gratuitous, they are far from unnecessary. Recent research into the human genome indicates that we are still evolving. But though our species may become taller, stronger and faster, none of that really matters in a world increasingly navigated from the comfort of a desk.
In 1993, the New Yorker published a cartoon by Peter Steiner in which two dogs are sitting in front of a computer. One dog says to the other: "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." I'd update Steiner's cartoon for the musclebound and fleet of foot: "On the Internet, nobody cares that you're a beefcake."
What sort of evolution is important? Emotional stability and that's where dogs come in. Our own evolution has become so intertwined with our dogs that the modern canine has actually become an extension of our own evolutionary progression. This is no mere parasitic relationship. This relationship is symbiotic: We attend to dogs' creaturely needs; they, whether they know it or not, minister to our emotional ones.
The line between species has been so thoroughly blurred that in its 2005-2006 pet ownership survey, the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association found that 75 percent of dog owners consider their animal like a child or family member. Eight out of ten buy gifts for their dogs, and nine percent of owners throw birthday parties for their dogs. Why? Well, according to the survey, pets provide their owners with "companionship, love, company and affection."
"[F]or an animal that's been so forcefully bred behind the genetic eight ball that taking a shit requires me to stand on my tippy toes, this is shaping up to be quite a life," marvels D. Resin in the as-told-to-by-a-spoiled-pet-Chihuahua-faux-memoir The Tinkerbell Hilton Diaries: My Life Tailing Paris Hilton.
Well said, for a Chihuahua. But I think Tinkerbell got it wrong. That dog didn't luck into a life of luxury despite being "bred behind the genetic eight ball." Rather, Tinkerbell has been bred so aggressively that she may now claim a life of mollycoddled luxury as her birthright.
And why not? Our highly evolved love life may be in shambles. We may live our rarefied existences far from our family, be failures at the office, with shattered dreams, a declining physique and an abiding inability to forge meaningful relationships, but Tinkerbell doesn't care about any of that. Just take me for a walk.
So why not feed her a package of My Doggy Bites Peanut Butter dog biscuits? Made with healthy portions of peanut butter, molasses, oil, milk and eggs, My Doggy Bites dog cookies have none of the overpowering sweetness or trans fats found in their lesser human analogues like Keebler or Archway. Yes, My Doggy Bites are dense, but they are not hard. Each has a dog's "Paw of Approval" stamped directly into their dough, and the cookies have a sugar-cane sweetness that seamlessly blends with their peanut-butter base. The texture may be a bit crude, but their flavor is as delicate as any madeleine just what your doggy heart desires.
Now, I am not a dog, and I have no idea whether a dog would prefer My Doggy Bites Peanut Butter cookies to, say, garden-variety Milk Bones.
But I will say this: Humans will prefer My Doggy Bites. After all, isn't that who they're made for?