Enter the Puppy

“Real living is living for others.”
Bruce Lee

Team Edge is in training to provide grassroots media muscle for our community. Thanks to Rabbi Bob, our cybertech sensei, we’re equipped with gadgets that strengthen our nerd kung fu.

Recently he rigged us up with a gizmo that shows us which posts people are reading most. Haaa-CHA! More info!

Unlike the corporate media, we do not mine personal data in order to target individuals with advertising. Instead, we pool information to actualize the wisdom of our community. We want to know how our combined mind works, and use that knowledge for the collective good.

Toward that end, here’s what our thingamabob told us during the first few weeks of tracking. The post we viewed most was not featured on our homepage, but was forwarded to our BBQ on the Edge page. Titled “Glen the Squirrel and Family”, it’s a view-master fable about an orphaned grey squirrel who was adopted into a litter of Papillon pups.

Why did this post top the chart of our common interest? Why are we fixated on animals, especially baby animals who star in stories about interspecies bonding? What deeper message is snuggled under the warm bellies of Glen and his cuddly comrades?

Inquiring hearts need to know.

For me the human connection with animals is a cosmic gift. It’s rooted in a divine instinct that inspires us ego-prone primates to care for other creatures. Baby animals are especially potent triggers of this innate compulsion.

The word we often use to describe this awesome force, spoken with a giddy shudder, is “cute.” It falls far short of the mark as a means of conveying the truth, so we say it in a certain voice and preface it with expressions like “Ohhh” and “Awww.” But we still aren’t close enough, so we say “I just can’t stand it!” or “I could just die!” If our hormones are surging we might assert “I’m going to eat you up!”

Widdle wordy rituals help wiggle us through the moment, and may pamper our predatory egos. But nothing can change the fact that our psyches have just surrendered to a mojo that existed long before humans began dominating the world.

Take heed, geeky grasshoopers. This cute animal attraction advances empires. It animates the adorable fauna that inhabit campaigns of global corporations. It’s the perky main ingredient in Happy Meals and stuffed Disney toys.

By watching how this force is deployed, we build our skills as netroot ninjas. But we should be careful observers. Master nerdfighter Hank Green has prepared a cautionary video — “CUTE-OCALYPSE” — that should be viewed by anyone who feels called to serve. (Advisory note: contains sweetly explicit images.)

“Cuteness is literally a drug,” warns Green. “The endorphins released in your brain upon seeing a cat snuggling with another cat are similar to opium; and the more we see these images, the more desensitized we become. Yet at the same time our desire to experience more cuteness increases….What happens when I realize that my cat will never be as cute as Maru?”

Master Hank is being clever-comic. That comes with the territory for nerdfighters. Yet he’s also onto something when he raises concerns about cuteness that are similar to those raised about the overuse of sexualized models in mass-market venues. Too much of that stuff, and consumers become addicted to pop surrogates while losing touch with the real juju.

Of course, turning animals like Glen and Maru into cute objects can stimulate the economy. Profits are created when our compulsion to care is denatured and reconstituted in forms that spur commerce.

The potential is modeled in a video produced by Yahoo Animal Nation starring Tillamook-born TV personality Bridget Marquardt. Presumably, Yahoo chose Marquardt for this gig because of her love for her pet Pekingnese named Winnnie, as popularized in the reality television series The Girls Next Door (in which she played a Playboy bunny living in Hugh Hefner’s mansion).

Since I don’t watch TV, and prefer real bunnies, I’m probably not part of Yahoo’s target audience. The closest I’ve come to courting this kind of cuteness is through my desire to own bunny pajamas like the ones Michael Burgess sported in his advice columns.

Imagining Uncle Mike in his PJs inspires me to think about ways to reclaim the power of cute for the revolution. Could we persuade Miss Marquardt to take a break from the L.A. glam and reconnect with her real-world roots? What if we convinced her to return to the Oregon coast and serve as spokeperson for our animal rescue network? I’d raise money for the campaign if our resident Hollywood black-belt, RW Bonn, were to produce a series of related videos.

Nerds can fantasize, yet we are realists too. Rather than think too much about Marquardt I’m following the lead of three revolutionary local nerdfighters — Roan, Willa, and Jennifer Childress.

Several weeks ago they convinced me to help them recruit another star to move here from southern California, a real heart-thumper born in the Year of the Dragon (same as Bruce Lee). I’m delighted to report that she has in fact relocated and now naps in our kitchen.

Meet the new messenger of animal cuteness for the Upper Left Edge. Her name is Piper. She’s a puppy. She makes little noises when she stretches and yawns that are the most darling sounds on earth. If we could bottle the essence of those sounds, and get News Corp execs to drink, I swear lovingkindness would trickle down to the lowest-paid temps at Fox News.

Eat your heart out, Rupert Murdoch. Ain’t no way you’ll find a more adorable Page Three mutt (blue heeler mixed with random hybrid vigor — mostly black with a white pi-symbol on her chest). An Aquarius, she enjoys jumping into laps while playing with her squeeky stuffed-cow chew toy.

Piper and her orphaned litter-mates were picked up by animal control and taken to a California facility where they were scheduled to be killed. Fortunately, a rescue network transported them to Oregon where our family adopted her on March 29 (the same date Bruce Lee entered high school).

Her studies now follow in the tradition of the Monks of New Skete, a monastery devoted to God and dog training that has published excellent books on the subject. At present Piper is mastering the discipline of outdoor elimination and no-biting meditation.

Yet we are the real pupils here. She’s teaching us about love — something humans think we understand yet are slow to learn and forget so quickly.

Much is revealed by the web of connections surrounding Piper here on the Edge. Lurkers may read and reflect in silence. Others may “like” this post on Facebook, where it could show up alongside ads for pet food. Hopefully a few folks will write comments below about their favorite animal experience. Any of these responses contributes strength to our online fellowship.

“Self-knowledge involves relationship,” said Bruce Lee. “To know oneself is to study one self in action with another person. Relationship is a process of self evaluation and self revelation. Relationship is the mirror in which you discover yourself – to be is to be related.”

So what’s it gonna be, pups? Are we dog-eat-dog consumers in a marketplace ruled by profiteers? Or are we a community of writers and readers connected by our love for those who need us most?


    • Watt ChildressWatt Childress says

      I fear you are correct, fellow nerdfighter. It is a huge responsibility to be caretaker of such awesome power.

      In our household we take turns being “Puppy-bearer,” so that no one becomes singularly obsessed with her cuteness. We keep watch on each other to be sure none of us starts calling her “my precious.”

  1. Rabbi BobRabbi Bob says

    All you need is love, baby. Rock on, Watt. Good luck with the new family member. Now I know if I hear all this baby talk from you on the phone, you’re just getting back at me for talking to my cats, and making sure Big Orange is not lurking on the back deck.

    I hope this doesn’t get out to Nancy. It will only increase the pressure she’s been putting on me to get a puppy. Maybe on a farm it’s OK, but in our little homestead, with the cats, it’s a recipe for trouble.

    So, I suppose you now want me to put Piper into the banner for the website…

    P.S. I just saw the Glen the Squirrel post. No hope of beating that with my intellectual banter about coal, wave energy and cultural inertia!

    • Watt ChildressWatt Childress says

      Now I understand what was happening when we were on the phone and you suddenly said “go Big Orange!” I thought you were commenting on a U.T. sports blurb.

      Nancy should write a post for the Edge about why you really need a puppy.

      He could be a very small breed, which would make him even cuter. You could name him Mr. Peabody, after the canine nerd professor in the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. He could become a mascot for your science columns.

      Use the force, Bob!

      • Rabbi BobRabbi Bob says

        Ah, Rocky and Bullwinkle. Now that was intellectual TV at its best! Yes, I admit it, I was a TV junkie as a kid. They just don’t make em like that any more.

        OK, I’ll use Mr. Peabody for my avatar!

  2. Rod RowanRod says

    Happy to see you found the new member of the family you were looking for and glad you went the rescue route. Best wishes for years of enjoyment together.

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