We continue the series on walking Buffalo, from the intrepid couple who walked every day—no matter the weather—in the first 30 months of Covid. They think (without being systematic) they walked every street in Buffalo, and many in other cities and towns, taking some 20,000 photos, some of which are shared in this series. While not itineraries, we hope to encourage others to “walk the walk,” to see, observe and appreciate Buffalo—and beyond. William Graebner and Dianne Bennett are also 5 Cent Cine’s film critics, here.
Today’s Photo-Essay: Beware of (the) Dog
Many area residents have dogs. For mail carriers, dogs are the worst part of the job. As a woman postal worker told us, “if there’s a dangerous dog, they don’t get their mail.” We have been threatened only once, by a loose Pit Bull puppy in Lovejoy.
Some residents “employ” the dogs for security purposes, posting a sign to suggest that the home and property is protected by a dog.
The most common signs are “Beware of Dog” and “Beware of the Dog.”
For a time Dianne and I debated—it became a sort of running joke—whether there was a difference between the two, whether the “the” before Dog reflected the idea that the beast to be feared was not just any dog, but a particular dog.
There were obvious limits to this discussion. Fortunately, we found dog signs that were more complex, and more entertaining. Several made it clear that the dog was “BAD,” perhaps meaning that it was incorrigible, incapable of being mollified, more dangerous than your average “beware-of-dog” dog:
The addition of a butterfly to the “Beware of Dog” warning may suggest that as bad as the dog might be, the owner is a good, sensitive person:
In only one case did the owner emphasize the badness of the dog by revealing the breed:
This East Side sign is so old that it’s hard to know whether it once read “Bad Dog” or “Beware of Dog.” In its decrepit state, it has become a work of art—“accidental art”:
Now and then, a property owner will add a representation–of a dog, or of something malevolent–signaling that that the animal is especially fierce.
Other signs we came across described the animal as a “guard dog,” suggesting that the dog was not just any old dog, but a dog that had special training as a guard, or a genetic predisposition to “guard.”
A related sign amped up the guard-dog idea, suggesting that the dog had a sense of itself not only as a guard, but as a guard that was fulfilling a “duty,” an obligation, or a requirement of being employed as a guard dog: “Guard Dog on Duty.”
There’s a problem here. The dog can’t possibly be “on duty” 24 hours a day; dogs sleep a lot and have other things to do besides bark at strangers. The phrasing implies that, at any given time, the dog might be “off duty.”
Then there’s “Dog on Premises.” That’s straight-forward. The dog is on the premises, it’s there. But is it? Maybe it’s out taking a walk with its owner, or on vacation with the family at the Cape. Or it’s on the premises but distracted, enjoying a bowl of made-in-Buffalo Milk Bone biscuits. Who knows?
And sometimes, a dog isn’t enough.
© William Graebner
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