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The Canine in Conversation
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drawing of a boy holding a butterfly net
figure 1  

 

dogcatcher. 1. A synonym for or reference to the lowest possible and least respected elected office.

This is another case where the word dog figures in political language. In announcing his disdain for a politician he saw as contemptuous, a Staten Island resident, James S. Oddo, told a New York Times reporter “I wouldn't vote for Bob Straniere if he were running for dog catcher, unopposed.”reference 1 I imagine that this usage is going out of fashion now that such activities are relegated to technocrats rather than dealt with as elective office or as jobs handed out as political spoils. However, this political put-down showed up regularly in regard to Steve Forbes' attempts to win an election campaign at least once in his life. Negative Spin described his efforts as running for dogcatcher and declaimed, “Now no dog is safe!” in 2000. In 1996, Sam Bergman said that Forbes lacks “the charisma to win dogcatcher.”reference 2 And superstar political blogger Ana Marie Cox (Wonkette) included it in a string of politically irrelevant roles: “Actually it's someone from the last administration...Assistant Deputy to the Secretary of the Interior or Third Ambassador to Latvia or dog catcher or something.”reference 3

 

 

1. Steve Forbes for Dogcatcher! 2000. Negative Spin. Accessed Sep 6 2001 from http:// www.negativespin.com/ dogcatcher.htm.

2. Bergman, Sam. 1996. Dull and Duller: A Field Guide to the '96 Campaign. Voice (2.4). Accessed Sep 6 2001 from http:// www.oberlin.edu/ ~ovoice/ issue2.4/ fourth_branch.htmL.

3. Cox, Ana Marie. 2006. Dog Days. New York: Riverhead Books.
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figure 2

 

2. A policeman who eats in a restaurant without paying.reference 4

 

4. Haber, Tom Burns. 1965. Canine Terms Applied to Human Beings and Human Events: Part II. American Speech 40 (4): 246.
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figure 3

dogcatcher crew or dogchaser crew. A railroad crew sent to relieve a crew that has been overtaken on the road by the “sixteen hour law” also known as the “dog law” or “hog law.”reference 5 This law was passed in 1906 and took force in the following year as a part of the Pure-Food Law.reference 6

5. Cassidy, Frederic Gomes, and Joan Houston Hall. 1985. Dictionary of American Regional English. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

6. Washington. In The New International Year Book: Compendium of the World's Progress for the Year 1907, edited by F. M. Colby. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Co. 838.

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About the illustrations: Figure 1: I am deeply grateful to Zach W. and Ryan W. of the Falmouth Schools of Maine for their excellent picture and their description of a dog catcher, which begins “Dog Catcher is friends with his dogs”reference 7 Permission granted.

 

7. W., Zach, and Ryan W. 2000. Meet Dog Catcher. Sixth Grade Multimedia Students, Falmouth Middle School. Accessed Sep 5 2001 from http:// www.falmouthschools.org/ gr6/ ZachRyan/ meet_dog_catcher.htm.

Figure 2 is collaged from an image on FunnyHub: “Emergency at Donutland” Of course nobody is saying that the police officers who are parked at Donutland are not paying for what they eat. This image is copyrighted and unlicensed. I believe that the use of scaled-down, low-resolution images of to provide critical commentary on the image qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.

Figure 3 is of a rail crew in the early 20th century. Courtesy of the National Park Service. This image is in the public domain.

see also: Yellow Dog Democrat; Blue Dog Democrat Last updated: August 17, 2008
by Alec MacLeod 2001-2008  Dogmatic Technologies Oakland Creative Commons unless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created by Alec MacLeod and included in The Canine in Conversation and any related pages, is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Please read the Terms of Use Agreement by Alec MacLeod Dogmatic Technologies