Was Ogden Nash A Sexist?
I found out recently that the phrase “dog is a man’s best friend” was popularized by Ogden Nash, an American poet who published work mostly between 1930 and 1970, or thereabouts. Being a poet myself, knowing of Ogden Nash and his work, and having heard that term my whole life, the connection was a delighted surprise for me. I had never really considered where that term came from; I just assumed it was one of those things we do not know the source of. But to discover that Ogden Nash had sort of made it a thing—fancy that!
I always sort of assumed that in the term “dog is a man’s best friend,” “man” referred more to all of us, to humanity. But you know what? That is kind of silly anyway. One of my professors told me about some interesting research that speculates that part of the reason women are commonly seen as more understanding and empathetic than men is rooted in this tradition of being forced to find a place for ourselves in a world that speaks and caters predominantly to men. Because we as women have, from when we first learn to read, been seeking ourselves out where we really are not, we learn to seek parts of ourselves out in those around us in real life. That is interesting but it is no excuse really for such sexist language these days.
If ‘Dog is a Man’s Best Friend’, What’s Mine?
I think “Society,” the big, bad wolf that it is, would expect me to answer, “my girlfriends,” or “Cosmo,” or “my long-lasting lip stain.” But I reject that.
When I think about it, really, my best friend is my dog. I have some incredibly excellent girlfriends—women who inspire me daily with their humor, poise, intelligence, and compassion. And I have one incredibly awesome fiancé, who quite literally slugs through the trenches of everyday life with me. But really, honestly, my dog is my best friend.
My fiancé and I have had our husky mix, Inara, for a year last month. We had wanted a dog for a long time but that can be difficult when you are renting. We decided to be a little spontaneous, to throw caution to the wind, to let love win—we went to our local shelter.
Alex fell in love with our sweet girl right away. When we met her, she walked straight to him, sniffed his hand, and promptly rolled over onto her back for belly rubs. I had it in my head that we were going to get a puppy, so I was not as immediately smitten. She was about a year old, weighed about 40 lbs, and shed more than seemed possible. But Alex was so in love with her, I decided a dog was a dog and we brought her home. Thank god he knew her when he saw her, right away. He could see immediately what it took me a couple of weeks to decide: that she made us a family.
Our Dog is My Firstborn
Inara is equally a momma’s girl and a daddy’s girl. She goes to Alex to roughhouse and play, when she gets scared, and if I have ignored her come-ons too long. She comes to me for snuggles, when she wants her needs met, when she needs to be petted and
scratched and cooed at and otherwise coddled. She sleeps stretched out between us with her head on the pillow like a little person. I do not have children—Inara is my firstborn. She forces me to take breaks from the insanity of my life. She licks my face often. She wags her tail at the sound of my voice and often on seeing me. She performs tricks for my approval.
She expresses her needs unapologetically in a way that reminds me that it is okay to do the same. Even as I write this, she sits with her chin resting on the edge of the bed, eyes boring into me, I can only imagine hoping this will be the last thing I do today that is not scratching the base of her tail.
So I have had enough of that gender-exclusive speech and I have had enough of being told I should like cats because they are quite and graceful—more “feminine.” Because dogs, my dog, is this [wo]man’s best friend.
Katelyn Roth double-majored in Creative Writing and Psychology at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS. She remains at the university doing her Masters in Poetry and is also teaching freshman composition classes. She resides in Pittsburgwith her boyfriend and their husky mix, Inara. Read her most recent article, Sex Trafficking: Today’s Slavery,” the second article in our series on prostitution in the USA and Pakistan.
Subscribe and be a part of this community! You will receive only one daily update to your email as well as my monthly newsletter and affirmation poster. We publish a variety of articles, covering social and practical, even humorous life issues affecting women and those who love them around the world. Our take is “Always Inspirational, Insightful and In-depth.” Follow us on Twitter, as well as Like my Facebook page to receive many posts published throughout the day and do not appear on this blog.