In India, cows are sacred. They roam unharmed through the streets as crowds of people and clusters of traffic ebb and flow around them.
The Hindu religion regards cows and bulls as holy because they are believed to be somebody's ancestors. Today's Brahma bull may have been yesterday's Uncle Sanjay, so the theory goes.
It's a bit like that with dogs in many small towns, and whole counties, for that matter. The dog seems to be a sacred creature, free to roam without fear of leash or dog pound.
I speak as somewhat of an expert. During my 40-plus years newspapering, I’ve patted uncounted numbers of stray dogs -- and been threatened by a few -- in small towns across North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi.
I'm not sure why there are so many roaming Rovers and Fidos, other than the obvious ones: they breed quickly and plentifully.
Certainly, no religion has publically pronounced locally that its members' ancestors were animals.
Some people, however, may believe that certain other people may have had dogs -- male or female -- as very immediate relatives. If not dogs, perhaps some folks believe other folks' immediate ancestors were goats, sheep, mules, jackasses, an orangutan, or the odd test tube. But those thoughts are due more to hard feelings than theology.
Like people, it's amazing how a limited number of building blocks can be used to produce an infinite variety of results. Working with the components of hair, two eyes, one nose, four legs, one mouth and a pair of ears, whatever makes dogs never makes two of them identical.
Like people, they come in all different sizes, shapes, and dispositions. There are big ones, little ones, grateful ones, klutzes. They may look righteous to ratty. Some may be looked after better than some humans. Others are so far gone that even the fleas have left, like rats leaving a sinking ship.
For the most part, it seems to be a dog's life being a dog across the Deep South. A hound can have his pick of sun warmed lawns or concrete to sleep on, and when the weather gets warmer he can find the only thing in town that outnumbers him -- shade trees -- and crawl under one for a snooze.
There are occasional hazards, but for the most part they're few and far between. Drivers knock over a few dogs, bad food from garbage cans fells some. The dog catching team of Smith and Wesson found in many small towns probably accounts for some.
On balance, though, a dog has as much chance of dying early as you do being run over by a motorcycle in church.
In fact, having to deal with dogs around here can cause some people to howl and show their teeth. Dogs have the key to the city, and they use it often. They tip over trashcans, nosing for rancid goodies. Their random policies toward defecation and impregnation upset some people.
People call the police demanding action. The situation puts police between a dog and a fire hydrant -- no matter which way they turn, something unpleasant will happen to them. Catch or shoot the dog and some people get unhappy. Do nothing about the mobile mutt and others get upset. It's a no win situation.
The dog surplus here isn't going to change. They'll continue to roam most cities and counties as unofficial mascots, free as the breeze, mostly friendly, and occasionally as randy as a goat farm in spring.
Houlka may become the exception to that dog surplus rule. The town recently passed a no-nonsense animal control ordinance with teeth in it. Don’t take my word for it; the ordinance published in the Sept. 15 Chickasaw Journal. If it’s vigorously enforced, you could be seeing a lot less dogs around that town.
Will it accomplish that goal?
We shall see, doggoneit. ...