Who's the good dog now?
I love the rich people who employ me. I do. Before that, I loved the other rich people who employed me. I want them swaddled with care, smothered with tax incentives, insulated against the cold breezes of the income tax. I am the dog, and they are the hand that comes mysteriously out of the air to put food in my bowl. Sometimes, they pet my head, which is called a "Christmas bonus." I bark at the people they hate, and if they want to keep me chained in a small back yard, then I am happy just to have food. If they do not feed me enough, I figure I must be a bad dog because people feed you if you are good.
A few months ago, the dogs who work at a supermarket chain in my state were bad enough dogs to growl and snap at their rich people. They went on strike. A dog can bark at the world, and chase squirrels and growl at strangers, but if the dog growls and snaps at his owners, then he or she is a bad dog. I myself am a former working dog, an ex-reporter, which is a little like being an ex-sheep dog. I got older, and they took away the sheep I used to herd, and now I do talk radio 14 hours a week. Between that and the pension they give old dogs, I am fed, and my new part-time owners petted my head this last Christmas.
When the supermarket dogs walked out, how my talk radio show bloomed with the derisive yaps of other dogs who wanted the cashier and bagger dogs to love their owners. My callers said if the supermarket dogs wanted more food, then they should find better owners. The supermarket dogs were chastised for, in the old phrase, "biting the hand that feeds them."
Everyone knows that a dog who can't do anything more complex than put soup cans on shelves is a stupid dog and should be grateful just to eat regularly and to sleep indoors. The owners deserve all the money because they build the supermarkets, and they build the hotels, and they have golden toilets, and they take their casinos into bankruptcy, and then they become head of all the owners and all the dogs. It was wrong, of course, but the supermarket dogs won, and were given a little more food and further pats on the head.
And now the virus has come, and the supermarket dogs are heroes! Gloved and masked, they check out and bag the groceries with infection hovering in the air. They stock shelves on the night shift, and no one calls them "stupid" anymore. No one suggests they get other, better owners because we need them to stock the shelves with toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The people who crossed their picket line a few months ago say, "Thank you," when their groceries are rung up by a working dog in her 50s.
But the supermarket dogs know. Every dog has its day, and if the pats on the head are frequent now, they won't be when this is over, and they are just lazy, demanding, spoiled unionized dogs again, dogs who screwed up and didn't get a lawyer job, and so now they stock the cases with chicken parts and ground beef.
The big truck driver dogs, and the night-shift warehouse dogs, the dogs who hand you your change and the dogs who mop blood off hospital floors, we all know we won't be heroes for long, and the owners will stop saying, "Good dog!" and start saying, "Get down!"
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