Laird: Pets have their own politics

By John Laird, Columbian Editorial Page Editor


photoJohn Laird is The Columbian's editorial page editor. His column of personal opinion appears each Sunday. Reach him at

It is well known that Washington state and Oregon are “blue,” politically speaking. It’s also quite evident that people in these two states love their dogs. These two facts are not mutually exclusive and in fact are related.

It’s hard to go anywhere around here and not notice a preponderance of dogs. For the most part, they’re well-behaved, happy and fully engaged with their owners and with each other.

On the other hand, the few cats that inhabit this area are either indoors, hiding from all of the dogs, or slithering around outdoors, answering their instincts as feral varmints.

When these two types of pets are placed on the political continuum, it becomes clear that dogs are Democrats and cats are Republicans.

As liberals, dogs believe it takes a village, and every dog wants to be a romping, slobbering, “I love you so much” part of that village. Dogs love interacting with other creatures, especially humans. If you throw a stick or a tennis ball, a good dog will fetch it and be happy about it. A great dog will even make a big production out of fetching a Frisbee, executing an airborne pirouette.

The last time I threw a stick for a cat to fetch, the cat looked at me as if to say, “If you weren’t so immersed in your pathetic, cradle-to-grave dependence on others, you’d fetch that stupid stick yourself. Don’t you believe in personal responsibility?” I felt so intimidated.

Dogs have a trait that is typical among Democrats: a sense of humor that is superior to the conservative cat’s. It’s kind of like the difference between Jon Stewart, all goofy and yukking it up and interrupting people, and Bill O’Reilly, all loud and irate and interrupting people.

You can easily tell when a dog is having a good time. Next time you drive by the off-leash dog park at the BPA Ross Complex in Hazel Dell, stop and watch those dogs. They’re in canine heaven. They love their “bark park,” and they know that if a dog misbehaves, that dog is banished from all the fun. You’ll see all types of dogs at the off-leash park. What you won’t see are cats. There is no such thing as a “meow park.”

Cats prefer rugged individualism

A dog has the innate, Democratic desire to help others in need. He can become more than just the best friend of a person who has no vision. He becomes that person’s eyes, even the guardian.

Cats, as conservatives, embrace the doctrine of rugged individualism. They believe that people who are in need should stop mooching off others and simply pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. That’s why there’s no such thing as a seeing-eye cat.

As liberals, dogs support mass transit. They know the wisdom of traveling as a group, even if it means 12 to 16 dogs taking two weeks to run 1,150 miles across a winter wilderness. Anchorage to Nome in early March? Piece of cake. Iditarod sled dogs laugh the whole way.

But you will never see a sled cat.

Blue-state folks place a much higher value on their Democratic dogs than on their Republican cats. In The Columbian’s classified ads last Sunday, there were 32 ads for dogs, most costing hundreds of dollars each, up to $650 for one 9-week-old Doberman. Sadly, there was only one ad for a cat for sale, and for a pittance: just 20 bucks. Have you ever seen a 20-dollar cat? It’s not very pretty.

In the “Lost” section of those classified ads, there were four ads for lost cats, but not a single ad for a lost dog. Explanation: Cats, like Pat Buchanan, are isolationists. Dogs, though, readily make allies and keep those coalitions willing. Dogs are place-bound. They love their homes; they know they can’t solve their problems by alienating allies.

Like most Democrats, dogs are well suited for the public spotlight. A bunch of real Barack Obamas they are, usually with fun names like Buster, Bubba or Lucky. At a dog show, those critters are sprinting happily, trying to impress the judges. At a cat show, the entrants — with elitist names like Princess, Cleopatra, or Hermione — don’t do a thing. They just sit there, as angry as Ann Coulter. The only way judges can stimulate any response is to torment the cats by dangling ribbons in their faces.

I suppose there are places where cats matter. That 2004 presidential election map that the GOP loves to flash is awash in red states. But around these parts, it’s quite obvious: You’ll only see a dog — never a cat — named Old Blue.