Man’s best friend has been a true friend, indeed. Loyal, caring and ever-attentive.
For 10,000 years, dogs have been our best friends. They are a source of eternal joy and comfort. In war and peace, they serve our needs in truly super-human ways we can barely imagine. They routinely lay down their own lives for the sake of ours.
It has been a profitable friendship for them, too. At least, until now.
They get one or two squares a day, shelter from harsh weather and — in some cases — perfectly royal treatment that includes luxuriant feather beds, expensive spa days and heated pools. They make all the family portraits. Sometimes, they get their own portraits made without any humans.
But who gets the better deal, really?
Humans are capable of unspeakable cruelty. Dogs can be bad or mean or vicious, but that is almost always human error. Anyway, viciousness is a trait that never works out very well for canines. When it comes to viciousness, humans have pretty much cornered the market.
Even among the docile and “domesticated” set, dogs sometimes wind up dinner. There are actually humans on this very planet still today who eat dogs.
And then there are all the psychological cruelties humans inflict upon dogs. We invented the doorbell. And a telephone that rings. And then we invented a telephone that rings by barking.
We introduced squirrels into American cities — and then passed laws in those very same cities requiring that dogs always be attached to humans by short, unforgiving nooses. Or, even more cruel, “retractible” nooses that give a dog enough rope to get up a good run of steam before being hanged by the neck.
And then the stupid human attached to the dog by a noose returns home with foul hands — but feeling virtuous! — because he picked up his dog’s feces with a plastic bag. Man’s “best friend” suffers few indignities more embarrassing than that one.
Think about all the ways dogs have modified their behavior over the centuries to accommodate humans. For starters, they largely stopped eating humans.
They learned to go to the bathroom outside, no matter how bad the weather. During the very same period dogs were being “house-broken,” humans were busy inventing extravagant new ways for humans to go to the bathroom indoors.
And even as the diet of humans expands and we invent various new diseases to attend our own corpulence, dogs have learned to eat carefully measured cupfuls of pitiful, dry kibble out of a giant bag.
Meanwhile, how many ways have humans modified our behavior to accommodate dogs?
Yeah, some moron invented the “doggy door.” But even that was just a lazy cop-out so humans would not have get up from the couch to open the door for their “best friend.” Seriously?
Of all the cruelties and humiliations humans have inflicted upon dogs throughout history, nothing has been more traumatizing for “man’s best friend” than this bizarre new religion requiring humans to wear face coverings outside for no reason whatsoever while walking their dogs. Or wearing masks — again, for no reason whatsoever — while other people walk their dogs.
Studies show that among dogs, faces are really no big deal. They prefer the other end.
But since faces are our most basic form of communication, dogs have naturally bent to our demands. For 10,000 years. It has become the single greatest pact of our friendship. It is how we love them and how they know we love them back.
They seek our faces. They register our eyes. They read our mouths.
Dogs have so adapted to our communication system that they get actual jobs today reading our moods, based largely on our facial expressions. This, no doubt, has led to the explosion of diseases in dogs that throughout history have been fairly exclusive to humans. Dog pharmacies today are awash with expensive medications for anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
And then — just like that — humans find a new obsession, a new religion, a new fixation to help cultivate all our manufactured anxieties.
The face mask.
Dogs look up in utter bafflement, terrorized as strangers with hooded faces approach from all directions. Their eyes dart wildly in search of any comfort. They turn for solace in their owner’s faces — but even she has betrayed her “best friend” and donned the dreaded vail of hate.
Every street corner is another scene from “Night of the Living Dead” — horror movies, of course, being yet another uniquely human torment inflicted upon dogs. Every walk through the park is another terrifying zombie apocalypse.
For dogs these days, every day and every night is Halloween.
It really is the final assault in what can only be described as a 10,000-year abusive relationship between man and dog.
• Charles Hurt is opinion editor of The Washington