QUESTION FOR THE DAY: How can you tell that a civilization is in decline?

ANSWER: When its people start dressing up their dogs like human beings.

It's true. Take ancient Rome, for example. Things were FINE as long as the Romans stayed busy slaying the Huns and otherwise conquering the world. But as soon as they had extra time on their hands, they started feeding each other grapes, having orgies, tossing Christians to the lions and making Chihuahuas wear little togas. The next thing you know, Rome (oh, oops!) fell.

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.

And also "ciao," as well as "arrivederci, baby."

Anyhoo! That's why I'm sooooooo worried about America these days. Frankly, I think we Americans are spending WAY too much time dressing up our Chihuahuas. And our other dogs, too! Especially now that it's almost Halloween!

This suspicion was confirmed by a recent press release that appeared in my in box, asking if I wanted to interview a well-known "dog shrink" who says that dressing up dogs for Halloween is a good thing. Here are her reasons.

1) "It encourages body handling of the dog." (Yes! I love to handle dog bodies! Who doesn't?)

2) "It creates more bonding between dogs and owners — owners pick out a costume; dog looks cute; dogs get praise, attention and rewards."

3) "Dogs love the attention and treats that come with it."

4) "Dogs are not as likely to be stressed and aggressive."

OK. I have lived with lots of dogs — including my mother's cocker spaniel, who took (this is the truth) antidepressants while my parents were on their LDS mission — and all I can say is ARE YOU SERIOUS?

Here's what a conversation at our house would sound like. That is if my dogs could speak actual English.

ME: Hey, guys. It's Halloween. Come over here so I can put you in some togas I just picked out.

MY DOGS: As if! We object when you make us wear nylon collars. Do you honestly think we're going to stand still and let you put us in some togas?

ME: Dudes. Come on. It will be a good bonding experience. Besides, people will think you look totally cute. You know how it is. CUTE DOGS + CUTE COSTUMES = ATTENTION! ALSO TREATS!

MY DOGS: Dogs in togas do not look cute. Dogs in costumes do not look cute. They look lame and also stupid. Which makes them feel stressed and aggressive. Which makes them want to bite people. Especially "dog shrinks."

MY MOM'S DOG: Excuse me. Speaking of "shrinks," has anyone seen my Valium?

So. Anyway. I don't know what dogs this press release was referring to specifically, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't referring to mine. My dogs don't like Halloween, and dressing them up would only make them hate it more, besides which, at the end of the day, who really needs a costume with dog slobber on it?

(ANSWER: Not me.)

P.S. A reminder to unaspiring writers: The deadline for the Deseret Morning News Bad Writing Contest is coming up. E-mail your submissions to me by Oct. 17.


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