There is no bigger lie than the phrase, “Working like a dog.” Mojo naps on her plush doggie bed, snorting dreamy sighs before her evening walk.
Collapsing on the couch, my husband and I sigh like two deflating tires. The answering machine goes blinkety-blink-blink-blink. There’s a five-car pileup of mail. An old-fashioned birthday card should be mailed right now – oh, my kingdom for a stamp.
Mojo awakens excited the pack is together again. If my breather is to last, the key is not to make eye contact. I pretend to be asleep as she click- click-clicks right over. She licks my hand. I play dead. She nudges my wrist. Faux sleep. Mojo jumps up on me. Come on, you know the trick. Do it.
I am well trained. Do you want your chewy toy? No. I open the door. Do you need to go out? No. Mojo want a biscuit? Close. Oh, how about a piggy ear? She does a grab-and-run, and soon satisfied grunts echo from the hallway.
Above the smacking, David remarks, “Boy, I worked like a dog today.”
Really? Nothing about Mojo’s life suggests slave-like exhaustion. Where did that notion come from? Is it from sled dogs pulling cargo through frozen tundra, or border collies herding cattle across miles of ranchland?
At one time, a dog’s life really meant hard labor. I once saw exhibits of farm life, circa 1700 through 1930, at the Holcombe-Jimison Farmstead Museum in New Jersey. There I imagined the origin of the term, working like a dog.
Before steam-powered engines and electricity, horses on a treadmill provided the belt-driven power to drive heavy farm equipment. “Horse-power” drove threshing machines, mill grinders, and choppers.
On a smaller scale, an 18th century farmhouse used canine power. A farm dog dashing along on a smaller treadmill created the motion to run butter churns. A farm wife could roast a chicken by putting her pet to work powering a belt to turn a fireplace spit.
Frankly, it’s hard to imagine my little Mojo doing a two-hour rotisserie run.
The modern dog is a bona fide family member. Fido’s face is in the mix on the mantle along with wedding photos and pictures of the kids. If you want a penny for a pet’s thoughts, read any number of doggy bestsellers. A friend visiting from China once stood awestruck at the aisles devoted solely to pet food in an American supermarket. He said, “In China, the dogs just eat what we eat.”
Well, given the American penchant for junk food, we want better nutrition for our darlings, now don’t we?
Let’s redefine old sayings like “working like a dog” or “it’s a dog’s life.” Nowadays those phrases should mean a salaried slacker or living the life of pampered leisure.
There are days when I wishI was nothin’ but a hound dog.