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Lee Pitts: Glittering Generalities

The best writing advice I ever got was to avoid “glittering generalities.” A good example is, “A dog is a man’s best friend.” It’s a generality, and not true in every instance. A wife may be a man’s best friend, or a bottle of whiskey, a mistress, a cat, or a Rhode Island Red rooster, as was the case of a neighbor I once had. What a loon!

I bet the person who first said that a dog is man’s best friend never owned a horse. Don’t get me wrong, I dearly love dogs, in fact, if I had to choose between living with a bunch of city folks, or a pack of wild dogs, I’d pick the mutts every time. 

Speaking of city slickers, they’d have a tendency to choose a dog over a horse because there is a dog found in 75% of American households, while only 1% of Americans own a horse. What a shame. I’ve found that the love of a good horse is second only to the love of a good woman. (My wife will be glad to know I put her first.)



It’s no exaggeration to say that dogs and horses have many things in common. Both can take you for a ride around a racetrack, can sleep any time night or day, go crazy in thunder and lightning, and both species have been known to occasionally bite the hand that feeds them.

I’ll admit that dogs do have their advantages. They’ll usually come when called, whereas I had to sneak up on my horse Gentleman to catch him. Dogs don’t buck very hard, are cheaper to feed, can’t kick you into the next county, and are easier to pick up after. Can you envision taking your horse for a walk like city folks do with their dogs, with those little plastic bags they use as a glove to pick up after their pooch? If it was a horse instead they’d need a ten gallon, triple-strength garbage bag to drag behind them. 



Dogs are also a lot easier to get rid of than a horse.

Having said all that, I like the fact that you have to earn the respect and love of a horse, while the lifetime friendship of a dog can be bought with a few table scraps. That’s because a dog’s brain and his stomach are in the same place. 

Your horse can’t sleep at the foot of your bed (without hogging all the covers) and you can’t cuddle and carry your horse around in your arms like you can a Chihuahua or Cockapoo, unless you’re heckuva lot stronger than I am. Your horse also can’t ride around in the cab of your pickup like your dog does without it getting a little crowded. And if the wife wants to go along for the ride you’re going to hurt one of their feelings by making one ride in the back. And I’ll admit that with many dogs you can tell them to sit and rollover, whereas the last horse I had that could do that darn near died from a twisted gut.

Yes, a dog is about as close to perfection as an animal can get, and that’s no glittering generality. And yet… a dog is not a horse, if you know what I mean? 

I recall that the very first time I ever climbed up on a horse I fell head over heels in love. Literally. When I got up and dusted myself off I immediately wanted to be a cowboy and spend the rest of my life in the saddle.  Who can resist when a horse looks at you with those big brown eyes and nuzzles your hand looking for a treat? 

Horses don’t watch TV like dogs do and they are more noble, intellectual and self-sufficient. They’re also capable of hauling you around all day with nary a complaint, whereas most dogs don’t like the sensation of 280 pounds of ugly, dead weight on their backs. That great American cowboy, Will Rogers, once said that, “A man that don’t love a horse, there is something the matter with him.”

And that, my friends, is no glittering generality.