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How to Take a Walk—in Buffalo, and Beyond (Beware of (the) Dog)

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.” 

Two signs—“Beware of Dog” and “Beware of the Dog”—may be better than one. A Mills Street porch.

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:

Actually, the dog depicted, even with the studded collar, doesn’t look that “bad.”

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:

Fillmore Avenue

In only one case did the owner emphasize the badness of the dog by revealing the breed:

Pit Bull Warning, Hampshire Street

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”: 

Dog sign as 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. 

Patriot dog. South Park Avenue, Old First Ward

A really mean dog, with spiked collar. Genesee, west of Jefferson

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.” 

Lovejoy district

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.” 


Lovejoy district

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? 

Lower West Side

And sometimes, a dog isn’t enough.

West Side

Also see:

How to Take a Walk in Buffalo – Look Up! Roofs and Roofers

How to Take a Walk in Buffalo – Buffalo’s Mini-Marts

How to Take a Walk in Buffalo – Remembering 9/11

How to Take a Walk in Buffalo – Street Humor

How to Take a Walk in Buffalo – The Yard as Spectacle

© William Graebner

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