Updated: Aug 15, 2021
There was once a town where certain prominent citizens—widely agreed to be intelligent, enlightened, and benevolent—came to believe that it was a terrible crime that there were dogs and masters. “In days gone by,” said their mayor, “we used to think that all dogs needed a master, but what is dog ownership, really, but slavery? And we did away with slavery many centuries ago.” He paused to acknowledge the “damn rights” from the assembled activists. “But the latest scientific research shows that dogs are terribly unhappy and mistreated as pets; they are obese—and some are even beaten to death...” At this a woman in the back row waved a gruesome picture that showed a Pit Bull suppurated with sores that oozed a green-red liquid.
“This can all be attributed,” said the mayor, with a smug smile, “to the old superstition, brought here by certain settler-colonialists, who once tyrannised this land, that we should own things—own women, own slaves, and, of course, even own dogs. The master and the dog, as Professor Claire Wilkinson, from our very own college, now rated, incidentally, ‘above outstanding’ in the latest league tables, has told us how notions of patriarchal ownership are embedded in dog-human relations. Indeed, a Person of Color stopped my eight-year-old daughter in the park only last Tuesday and told her that every time she sees a dog being walked on a lead she cries; it reminds her that she is still subject visuo-traumatic repression by settler-colonial power structures. I mean, come on, it’s 20XX—it’s time to do better!”
A similar drumbeat had been in the media for several years and fashionable girls already inquired, over a light brunch, if their friends had seen that cute Instagram influencer who said dog ownership was just plain slavery. “I had a dog when I was a child,” says one girl, slightly fluttering her eyelids, “but I’m ashamed about it now. I think it was mutually traumatic, for me and the dog—sometimes you can be...too close.” “I totally get you,” snaps her compatriot. And, later, when they turn to their daily news digest, the top report would be that yet another dog had been beaten to death by its owner. “We. Have. To. Do. Something,” the petulant girl notes on her Instagram. “Daddy says that statistically it’s all made up, more dogs are killed in swimming pools than by their owners but Daddy is just being silly. He’s got some very bigoted views,” she pouts to her boyfriend as he removes various items from her attic for her. “That right, sweetheart?” he says, absent-mindedly. “YES. And listen.”
And so with that, there was a great applause and the town passed a bill to end dog ownership at once. For the most part, the owners surrendered their dogs willingly. Several lawsuits were filed with the courts to strike down the law, but the justices, impeccable members of several very conservative legal associations, were forced to admit that since a three-year-old could consent to sex reassignment surgery and since, according to various scientific papers from peer-reviewed journals, the average mature Cocker Spaniel enjoys the same cognitive abilities as a three-year-old human child it would be against the common law tradition, downright authoritarian and anti-liberal in fact, not to extend the same rights to the town’s dogs—although, as a concession to one very reactionary justice, it was agreed that dogs with a demonstrated cognitive impairment could still have an owner for safeguarding purposes.
Consequently, the town’s more subtle and wealthy dog lovers paid generous emoluments to noted caninologists to declare that their dogs were, so far as dogs go, completely retarded—a fact that was noted with a special bib marked with a large “R”, so that the town Canine Rights Associate (formerly, dog catcher) would not liberate the dog and arrest the owner. Incidentally, the “R” stood for “Retrogressive Canine, Category III”—one of seventeen categories of canine cognitive impairment recognised by the state; but teenage boys often said it just meant “retard”; and although indulgent fathers laughed, they were still banished to their bedrooms for the evening for saying it.
Nonetheless, the residual dog owners still had to face the town’s teenagers and, when they walked their dogs on a lead past a Starbucks, teenage girls would whisper to each other, “Like, she’s got a dog on a lead; she’s like one of those total racists.” “Yeah, like just leave the frickin’ dog alone—can’t you be normal!” Sometimes, an indignant female dog owner would return to remonstrate with the girls and the scene would be recorded on a cellphone to ignite global outrage on social media. “I’m not racist, can’t you read? Look it says ‘R’, my dog is retarded! He has to be on a lead. I have a certificate,” protested the flustered owner. “Lady, ‘R’ stands for racist—and why are you saying the r-slur anyway? That’s racist as well!”
There were dark mutters on social media that a secretive group of men with large beards and pick-up trucks, called “the Dogkeepers”, would resist any attempts to take their hounds from them, possibly with violence. A brief scroll on their Facebook page revealed semi-literate screeds, later deleted, that warned the J*ws had planned the entire ban on dog ownership to dilute the blood of the purer breeds, those most suited for Aryan man, through free mating on the streets—complete mongrelisation, I tells you; they had it planned for centuries.
Yet all this miasmic conspiracy came to nothing in the end; some said the Dogkeepers planned to kidnap the town mayor and, indeed, several men were arrested on such a charge, although the trial collapsed five years later when it was revealed that seven of the ten Dogkeepers on trial were informers for the Sheriff’s Department, in turn sponsored by the SKKER and HEATR programmes—central government initiatives originally designed to combat the threat of radical incel terrorism, but now turned, through special sequester in the latest budget, towards “human supremacy activists”.
The town’s lone eccentric, a retired college professor and Anglophile who always dressed in tweed, published a very mild editorial on his Facebook feed that suggested there was an essential dignity to dog ownership and a beauty in the relationship between man and dog, even if it was, he admitted, somewhat humbling for the dog. However, his account was immediately suspended and all his windows broken by an enthusiastic anti-fascist cell. Fortunately, the professor found a new role as a perennial guest on various quasi-dissident podcasts and YouTube shows, where he complained about the “intolerant left” and the decline of the classical liberal tradition—although he declined to speak about the existence of dog breeds. “It’s more a question of tradition than pedigree,” he would offer, somewhat lamely.
Despite his moderation, he lost his regular spot as a guest contributor to The Reasonable Conservative, a storied publication whose last comment on “the dog question” was an article by an intern entitled: “Lady and the Tramp: how classic cinema shows that the Founding Fathers opposed dog ownership and adored mongrels”. “We would have kept him on, but, you know, we’re a responsible moderate publication, and frankly he was, if you excuse the pun,” the magazine’s editor paused to adjust his bow tie, “dogwhistling, ah ha ha, to the alt-right; we can’t have that. It’s practically Hiterlite—Hitler was a great dog owner, as you’ll know if you’ve read Andrew’s latest book on Churchill...”
Otherwise, the liberation of the hounds went as planned. On the appointed hour and day, all the town canines were herded into what had been the city’s Amy Schumer Memorial Park, now renamed the Schumer Canine Restoration Center and suitably reinforced with razorwire high and low. If you looked around that day you would have seen a great melange in that park: Alsatians, Pekingese, mongrels, Pugs, St. Bernards, Spaniels, Beagles—just about every breed you could imagine, and all engaged in a great democratic experiment; every dog sniffing bottoms, humping, barking, chasing, defecating, and howling for their lost owners.
For the most part, the owners left at once and many a man was heard to say to his wife, under his breath, “I’m sure they’ll be happy there, honey. It’s a nice big park; we best let them get on with their new life now.” A few diehards came to visit their dogs every day and, of course, the dogs quickly found their way to the fence and snuffled the hands of their owners—a few howled piteously. For the most part, the persistent ex-owners were old women whose pet served as a little substitute baby, or perhaps smelly homeless men whose dog had been their only companion. These socially marginal figures had little to lose anyway, so kept up the visits; although, of course, various animal rights activists and anti-fascist cells would come and jeer at them: “Fuckin’ fascist! Fuckin’ supremacist! Your dog’s free now, you fuck.” This was usually followed with a milkshake thrown from a fast-moving car; eventually it was even possible to obtain substantial following on TikTok if you “shak’d the fash”.
The whole affair came to a head when a homeless man scaled the fence one night when no one was looking and was found the next morning, surrounded by a pack of German Shepherds. “Yup. Wasn’t much more than you could pour in two buckets,” reported the night manager to the assembled press in an off-the-record briefing at the local taco stand. “I’m gonna need a new shovel, but my boss says there’s no money,” he added, between draws on a raspberry vape, gently wiping the beef grease into his overall.
Questions began to be raised as to conditions in the Schumer Canine Restoration Center, local luminaries heard whispered reports and received short Whatsapp audio clips and vids that revealed dogs with their fur matted and untended, some with open sores and covered in fleas—and others so thin that your could use their rib cage for a xylophone. Tentative questions were raised at various committees, but the mayor reassured people again and again: “Please, don’t listen to fake news. Don’t listen to misinformation. We have the best canine experts at the SCRC; they have the qualifications, I assure you. The tinfoil hat brigade and the supremacists and the hate-mongers are just trying to cause trouble; they learn from Russian blogs, according to the latest Federal Security Brief. I can assure you that there is a 97% survival rate in the center; and that is better than when dogs were owned.” As for the journalists, they became less and less interested: “Dogs and civil rights? Look this is old news, the question is settled...we want something fresh—this is going two years back now.”
Eventually, an independent documentary surfaced on YouTube. The dialogue with a former low-grade employee at the SCRC, face suitably blanked out, went as follows: “The dogs don’t starve because they eat the smaller ones.” “The smaller ones?” “You know like the rats, like, Legally Blonde dogs, Chihuahuas and shit. They get eaten, you know. It’s like some Mockingbird shit, I don’t know.” “But those breeds run out, right?” “Yah. I mean when I left they started eating the puppies, mostly.” “But the mayor says they survive?” “Well, thing is, depends how you count and the city counts in a particular way, let me explain...”
It was survival of the fittest. The boutique dogs, the kind city women carry in their handbags—Pugs and the like—went first; they were built for refined civilisation, not a general pen in a city centre. When the feed was poured out every morning and evening they had no chance against the big strong breeds who muscled in on the chow; it was a scene that would have been understood at a glance by Jack London. Other slightly larger breeds went next, eventually nothing survived that was smaller than a Spaniel—and even Spaniels were marginal. The dogs formed their own ecosystems and packs and—just as the Dogkeepers feared—strange couplings took place when the bitches were in heat; and these couplings produced exotic mongrels, socialised to the human-induced chaos that was the liberation camp.
Twenty years later, the dog issue had been largely forgotten. It was settled business. The town had, everyone agreed, progressed; they had moved on to bigger and better things. Everyone was freer now, it was quite agreed—even the dog owners pretended, in public anyway, to be relieved they no longer had to be responsible for those big ol’ hounds. However, it was about this time, one August night, when the town was silent and stifled, that little Sara Ketteridge staggered into her uncle’s house covered, almost head to toe, in blood. Her uncle took her up and rushed her to the emergency ward, but by the time he parked his car she was unconscious and a few hours later she was dead.
When the doctors said it was dogs, nobody gave it much thought. People had largely forgotten dogs by then. “I suppose it was some stray from one of the states where they still let humans keep dogs,” sneered an activist. “It was probably traumatised from the way its owners treated him, went mad and attacked a human. Essentially, the little girl was a victim of human supremacy—nothing to do with the dog.” And everyone nodded and agreed; it certainly made sense, people who owned dogs were, all knew, very evil people.
But this attitude did not last, for, several months later, an elementary school outing at a local scenic site was set upon by...by...”Well, it was hard to say plainly what they were exactly. I mean they were dogs, but not like no dogs I ever seen,” explained an old man, who witnessed the attack, on the podcast UnderOccult World. “Was it the government? Was it aliens? Was it spirits? Will the truth of what happened at Willow Creek ever be told...?”
The mayor and the town hall insisted that the attack was not dogs. Indeed, a press spokeswoman suggested, to general guffaws from the public galleries, that it was rabid Canadian Racoons, recently reported in the area by the CDC. A local biology professor, a rather autistic German ethologist, was excoriated by the mayor’s office when he told reporters, “Racoonz zay are not knownz for zavage pack attackz; and, besidez, the droppingz at zey scene are klearly from a kanine...” “This man,” noted a press spokesman, “has a history of posting to far-right pro-dog-ownership blogs. He does it anonymously, like a coward, but last week we secured his doxx thanks to a leak by a third party. He is not a reliable expert, and should not be quoted by responsible media outlets. He is a far-right fanatic with a grievance. He needs to get a lifeand a girlfriend—and study this nation’s values.”
Yet most people in the town had decided better and by nightfall the streets cleared out, with little boys and girls yanked off the pavement by protective paternal arms. It became very quiet at night, so quiet that people were forced to listen to the old folks. Grandpa would sit in his rocker in the semi-dark and rock to the rhythm of the air-conditioning unit and sip his Dr. Pepper: “I tell you, in my day we had dogs but not like this. No, sir. A dog was a man’s best friend and you could go up and pat a big old Alsatian and he’d let you. Dogs today, though—there’s something different to ‘em. They’ve been brutalised, made half-savage. I don’t know that man owning a dog was the best thing; now everyone says it was bad back when a man owned a dog, but I’m here to tell you that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to let the government keep all the dawgs locked up there doing Gawd knows what to ‘em.”
Later, when grandpa has retired, the teenagers come to the kitchen to harangue their mother. “He’s just like Hitler, Mom.” “Now your Granpa is nothing like Hitler, sweetie.” “But he’s sooo e-m-b-a-r-r-a-s-s-i-n-g. When Nikki was here yesterday she heard him talking about dog leads and collars and she thought it was totally groace.” “We just need to kill all the dawgs. Kill ‘em all,’” spits her brother, himself embittered from illicit imageboard messages and obscene memes that mock the town hall’s saccharine pro-dog propaganda. “Did you say the word?” “Yeah. Yeah. P*och. Lmao.” “Wat did Ms. Stevens say?” “She said she’d send me to the principal and have me suspended if I used hate speech like that again. Just lol.”
Back at the kitchen table, mom turns to her children and says: “I’m fed up with dogs, dogs, dogs. What matters in this house is that we earn a decent, responsible living. You’re just trying to shock me, but you can’t. Grandpa is an old man and he’s going back down south in a few weeks, so let’s just ignore him and get on with our lives and we’ll have no more talk of dogs.”
It was the next spring that Old Gray arrived. “He ain’t the biggest dog I’ve ever seen—not that I’ve seen many—but there’s something about him. Man, he freaked me. He is a freak that dawg.” “Are you sure it’s a dog? You know there are a lot of alt-right rumours about wild dog packs seeking out their old masters—crazy talk, tinfoil hat territory; you know, occult conspiracy theories.” “Man, I don’t know nothing about that but I’ve seen a feakin’ dog. I seen one before they pulled the pictures on Wikipedia; and this was a dog, but not like any dog...he had....he had...an aura. He hit different, man. Different.”
For a few months, Old Gray was a spectral presence in the town, known mainly through flashed messages and forum posts. The official media denied he existed; they denied there was a large pack of dogs gathered in the forests outside town; they denied that the SCRC had been found to have multiple holes in its fences—had done for years—and that the dogs it contained effectively wandered free. There were several fatal attacks, but there had been attacks for years now and people had learned to accept them as part and parcel of everyday life; nobody wanted to say for sure it was dogs—nobody wanted to be a pariah. Yet it was clear that recent attacks had taken on a more coordinated and fatal character; behind each attack lay a definite intelligence. By mid-summer, graffiti had appeared in town that read: I believe in Old Gray. The hipsters all had t-shirts printed to that effect, though if pressed on whether Old Gray existed they insisted that it was all ironic.
It all broke as a summer storm, one morning the town beheld a car outside the town hall completely surrounded by a perfect circle—a perfect canine circle, and the dogs, all agreed, were uniform in nature; if not of any breed that could be identified. The pack left as quickly as it had arrived, at the instigation of Old Gray himself, who loped out of an abandoned filling station. The pictures and videos that day were all strangely blurred; but from what can be gleaned after competent photographic enhancement, Old Gray stood about as high as a small Golden Retriever; he had a definite limp on his back right leg and a permanent smile, as if he were a laughing jackal.
The car was, as it turned out, an Uber that had just dropped the mayor at an event for his political committee a few blocks down the street. What happened next is well-recorded and enjoyed by all connoisseurs of the strange and grotesque; but briefly, what became known as “the Able Pie massacre” saw the mayor, his staffers, and a number of town assemblywomen butchered while they discussed strategy over coffee and waffles at the Able Pie Bakery. The mayor seems to have died last, his throat gouged open amid spilled coffee, whipped cream, and waffles. Naturally, they say Old Gray killed him, but the coroner would only venture that the wounds were, “...substantial, possibly canine in nature.”
The massacre marked the town’s end, for the dog pack had a free run on the streets and into the suburbs. The police were powerless, for a dog had as much legal protection as a small child and the media tried to focus on other crimes as much as possible—sometimes there would be a dramatic story about a far-right plot to re-establish dog ownership and the risks it posed to democracy, for actual crime reports and crime statistics most people relied on furtive texts and anonymous social media reports. Gradually, the town began to die; people sold up and nobody bought their homes. The grass took over streets where children used to play with their dogs and industry fell back to nothing. The few remaining humans moved about the streets furtively, always conscious that they would be arrested if they used lethal force on the pack—the pack that did not exist, according to the media; though locals barely raised their eyebrows and were no longer even angry at the lies.
The German ethologist sought a new post at a research station on the edge of the Black Forest. Before he left, he composed a brief report on his new blog, no longer anonymous—the damage was done. Here is an excerpt: “...the process of atomisation witnessed in this town seems to have had an extraordinary effect on the domesticated canines. Removed from their position as cherished property, the dogs were firstly winnowed in the most brutal conditions in the government camp—the weakest and the most affectionate were killed first. What remained, through strange couplings and a brutal socialisation, became “the pack”; behaviourally this was no wolf pack or common pack of strays—it was something more potent. When a dog—or a man—has lost his individual self, his individual condition as property, self-owned or otherwise, it seems he is vulnerable to being driven by the most brutal herder. What creature could master a debased pack of hounds selected and conditioned to brutality and cruelty? Only a master dog of complete ruthlessness; some atavistic throwback—some perpetual pattern-type, as Goethe might have said—that would drive his underdogs to the utmost cruelty and brutality. The unowned domestic dog, as exemplified here, becomes first a lonely and debased atom and then is mastered by the cruelest shepherd and so driven to destruction...”