If you’re a puppy, what does “most promising” mean? The big guy’s sweet, deep pleasure emanated from the brown background of the message board, his honor was palpable and we were so pleased for him and the adorable little Hiro. I even got that squishy, gut-warming sensation that’s been largely absent in my feelings about the whole equation, puppy, cam, guy, toys, flying monkeys. Because even the flying monkeys couldn’t protect Hiro from what appears to be his all-day loneliness.
So at first “most promising” meant a pretty ribbon, and the expansive, nipponese pride (it is with great honor….) of the big guy. Whether or not this honor accrues also to the daily life of Hiro isn’t clear. Does he get a reward for having the right ratio of muzzle length to head length? And what if, as he grows, his muzzle length becomes more than 40 percent of his total head length? No more promises? They still love him but no more bully sticks? They come and take the ribbon, Hiro’s early promise dashed to bits under the exacting eye of the stern Japanese judge? No more honor? Does somebody have to kill himself?
“Not the dog I wanted” is what Tommy’s breeder said about her Japanese import. So she sold him. Tommy of course had no promise at all. Leaving aside various ratios, the puppy had a bad bite from the beginning. He never made me any promises. I made some to him though, namely that I would take care of him and protect him and cherish him all his life. All he wants in return is food, water, a nice place to sleep, the occasional stolen biscuit or sock or greasy napkin. And a running start on the squirrels in the back yard. Also to have all the toys and watch as the poodles beg for theirs back.
What of all the puppies who were not, in the eyes of the judge come all the way from Japan, promising? Do they get sold or shamed or kept anyway despite their failure? I understand that the love people have for their dogs gets all mixed up when somebody else says yep, or in this case “hai,” you’ve got the most promising one. I love it when people on the street say my dogs are beautiful, and I look upon them with an extra little warmth in my sternum. But the people on the street expect no future greatness from my dogs, only a momentary bit of pleasure. And what would be greatness anyway?
It’s such a strange mixture of love and pride and ownership and purity, this idea of the perfect example of a breed. I was in the parking lot of a fancy grocery store once, my son home from college and shopping with me. Next to us a clean new big Mercedes pulled in and a man in a leather jacket got out, in a hurry of course. “Oooh,” said my son. “Das ubermensch.” Meaning, loosely, “ooh, there goes Superman.” He was being sarcastic, but the guy was indeed a superior example of the breed. Tall, strong, healthy-looking and just short of floridly rich. Even in Bethesda where the Mercedes is the ride of choice and costly leather jackets are as expendable as the steers from which they were taken, this guy looked….uber.
So is hapless little Hiro das ubershiba? Better than all the rest? As my sister said rather sharply when I dragged her through the third French Cistercian abbey exclaiming that this one was best of all, “how can you tell?”
It’s hard for us outsiders to tell how HIro holds himself when he’s being shown. He must be poised and beautiful. I just wish all the promise meant he could have a friend over sometimes.