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Trying to Be a Hero Doesn't Make You One

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My puppy, Yoshmenge, in the car.


Despite recommendations to the contrary, I sometimes skip breakfast, as I did today. It is mid-morning and I am hungry. I am stuck at home while an upholstery cleaner attempts admirably, if unsuccessfully, to clean a long-smearing stain from one of our couches.

My stomach grumbles in a frightening register which penetrates over the whirs of the steam cleaning apparatus. My dog, Yoshmenge, loves the cleaner guy, just as he loves everyone and every dog and every rock he can fit in his head. After the cleaner leaves, my stomach manifests a staccato grinding noise which causes Yosh's head to tilt up and to the side. It is time to eat.

The fridge is barren. My lunch meeting is hours away. Sigh. I'm gonna have to walk to Tim Horton's, which is all too close (and visited all too often). Not much on their menu for a vegetarian, but that's why nature created hash browns and unbuttered bagels.

Trouble is, Yoshmenge is a tiny gorgeous gregarious puppy. He is barely into this world at 15 weeks old. As with my departed, beloved dog, Big Silly, I won't leave Yosh outside unattended. We're just gonna have to do a quick vehicular run.

(Sidenote: I would leave him at home but he's pretty worked up from the cleaner's swishes and scratches, so he won't take well to being penned up at this moment. He can sleep through a 20-person dinner but gets separation anxiety if you go to the bathroom.)

He loves the car so no coaxing is necessary. It is a semi-warm 18 degrees, and I lower each window a couple inches for air flow. The lunch rush hasn't started so this will be quick. In line, my over-protective eyes are fixed on the car windows, making the chatty couple in my line of sight squirm in a way I recognize but cannot prevent. Yoshmenge is balancing on the arm rest. I order. He jumps into the driver's seat. I get my number and wait for my bagel to toast. He is somehow crammed on top of the dashboard, licking the windshield. I am handed my hot carbs, just hoping he hasn't discovered the box of tissues. I head to the car.

I am immediately accosted. Two angry twenty-something men march towards me, a couple of their friends looming behind. They scream at me for leaving my dog in the car. They are Clark Kent. They are Batman. They believe they are righteous and justified in trying to save my coddled dog from six minutes of temperate frolic. They move forward to intimidate me physically, pointing fingers, shouting, asking--rhetorically, I imagine--if I care about dogs at all. After a third of them comes up to me, I feel my temper start to overwhelm my patience.

I explain how all four windows are cracked considerably. That I was watching him the entire time (so angry, unpredictable people like them don't disturb him). That it is 18 degrees out and very comfortable in the car. That this is a Toyota Prius, and the solar-powered fan blows automatically when the interior gets warm. That the fob key I am clutching has an "A/C" button in case of an emergency. That he has been in the car for roughly five minutes.

I tell them I am not that guy.

You know that guy, the one they've seen on the news. (Well, the viral videos of the news.) The ones they hope to catch on their cellphone cameras and torment, and maybe beat up and be a local hero.

But I am not that guy.

And they are not that hero.

But they don't hear it. They keep screaming, the courage of the mob fuelling them. The cellphones are starting to come out. Their social media radar is twitching. Twenty seconds of heroism might provide them twenty million views, so it's easy to see why they are just looking for a reason.

The shaming of people online has given license to shame people offline. In another era, these schmucks wouldn't have cared about my dog. And if they did care, they would have recognized that it is 18 degrees out and all four windows are open. And if they really really cared, they would've done what I do in these situations, which is to come inside the Tim Horton's and ask for the owner, to tell him they fear his puppy has spent five to seven minutes getting dangerously mild.

They are still screaming at me as I open the driver's side door. My primary thought, as my temper gauge is rising dangerously fast, is that if I attempt to smash the teeth out of their sanctimonious face-holes, the police might take my dog away. Who knows how affairs will be sorted out in the shadow of confrontation. Too great a risk to take. So I drive off, hollering out of the already-lowered window, "Your anger is misplaced! Do something productive with it!"

Not Schwarzenegger-esque, but it could've been worse.

I drive towards home, shaking with contempt.

Because here is what I was really thinking, the nagging thought which hit me the second I saw them cluster around my car, beyond whether I was going to have to physically defend myself, or explain to the police that I would never harm my dog.

An actual, defined thought travelled through my mind, as the ring-leader hero hurled insults at me.

You are a fucking hypocrite, Captain Fantastic.

That much left my lips -- meekly -- at the time. But he just thought it was the venom of the guilty, and I even felt it sputter at him, directionless.

But what I meant, what these malnourished, uninformed, knee-jerk jerks couldn't parse, was that my anger was towards what they were doing while they raged from up on high at me.

They were eating bacon. All of them.

Don't tell me you're a defender of animal rights while you devour a tortured mammal. That pig screamed before she died. She lived life in a cage. Screw you, evangelist of despair, taking a moment to feign indignation that we ought treat our animal brethren with decency. My dog was fine in the car for five minutes. You didn't give that pink dog a goddamned chance.

But that's the world. Piggie wise and doggie foolish, or something more clever than that.

You can't love puppies and eat pigs. You are not the hero you think you are. You're just a bully and a hypocrite and a piece of what's coming out of Yoshmenge right now. Hang on, let me grab a bag...because I am that guy.