In the interests of public safety, Minneapolis has published online an astonishing database of criminals, complete with offenses and addresses. You can look at the map and see if any of these dangerous drooling individuals live next to you, and wonder whether the placid streets of your neighborhood harbor miscreants bent on harm. You can look into their eyes, and wonder what they're thinking about.
I'll tell you what they're thinking about. Steak.
The map consists of bad dogs. Very, very bad dogs who bit people, or other dogs, or reduced the number of a cat's lives by one. The city's website doesn't have a clickable map of sex offenders, but if you want to get the name and address of a dog who used another mutt's tail for flossing string, check out the Dangerous Dogs List.
The mug shots are varied. Some look remorseful. Things just got out of paw, man, crazy stuff was going down. I know it was wrong and I did my time. Some are grinning like Charles Manson, like they know they're bound for the Helter Skelter Shelter and they don't care. Some dogs have a long hard stare in some pictures, like they were channeling a Johnny Cash song about killing a man in Reno.
The owners' names are included, but you might be hesitant to judge. Some dogs are poorly trained, yes. Some dogs don't understand warnings like If you do bite the Westies, you will lose your testes. Some are just jerks. They trot around the dog parks with their tails high and their gonadal bestowments a-swingin' in the breeze, looking for a Pekingese to humiliate. If they wore shirts there would be a pack of rawhide sticks rolled up in one sleeve. Or the dog is just insane, the equivalent of someone sitting in a back booth at Perkins at 3 a.m. who suddenly grabs a fork and shouts THERE AIN'T NO BERRY CALLED TWIN BERRY and has to be restrained.
Is the map enough? Maybe it should be integrated into your phone's GPS, so you can get an alert when you're near a dangerous dog. As it stands now, you look down and see a round-headed beast clamped to your shin, eyes rolling back with that "goin' for marrow" expression, and you don't know if it's one of the repeat offenders. If your phone vibrated while you were being attacked, you would know the dog's name and criminal record. This is the 21st century! What else are phones for, if not getting a text about the name of the beast crunching your metatarsus?
They might also come up with a map of Startlingly Large Dogs With Territory Issues, if they have the time. The other day I passed a Bunyan-sized mastiff chained to a handrail, and I didn't see him until he yelled out BOU BOU BOU and bolted forward with terrifying intent. It was like meeting a charging linebacker; if I'd been walking a pug, instinct would have made me toss him downfield before I was tackled.
None of our neighborhood dogs made the list of shame. They're mostly small and nervous; you can tell from their freaked-out yips when you pass. You see them pressed against the window, vibrating like hummingbird hearts. There's a sweet old gray dog who sits outside and watches the world. He used to stand and watch. Now he curls up. Easier on the bones. There's a throwback pug who trots around like a little ruffian from a '30s children's comedy short, looking surprised and dismayed by everything. No leash, no owner anywhere around. He goes out and he comes back. He's living the dream.
That is what they want, right? Freedom. Oh, people are great, and home is great because that's where the mysterious ever-replenishing bucket of tasty nodules is, but given the chance to run far and wide, any dog will take it. And so, last weekend, when the opportunity presented itself, my dog ran away.
He has a genetic imperative to drive raccoons up trees. When he smells one of the 'coons who waddle around after dark, his programming kicks in. I feel bad, because raccoon management isn't really high on our list of things to do. It's like having a dog bred to identify the International Space Station when it passes overhead. That's nice, but what do you want me to do about it?
A particularly redolent example of his nemesis must have passed nearby, because he dug under the fence and ran off to force the raccoon to go up a tree, which was the most important thing in the world. I spent half an hour walking around the neighborhood calling his name: nothing. If I'd had a bottle of raccoon perfume I could have poured it on my head and walked around on hands and knees and he would have been home in a trice, but I think he would have been shocked and embarrassed for me and it would be one of those things we just didn't talk about.
Found him after a while: great weeping relief. But it made me investigate what the city's website has for lost dogs, and was pleased to find they have a website for posting your lost pet pictures. Alas, it's wretched. The page that gives you instructions on how to report your pet doesn't have a link to the page where you actually do it. The site that shows which dogs they've got at the pound looks like was designed in 1997. There's nothing that would tweet you a message about the pet, or a nice zoomable clickable map that shows you where the dog was found.
It's good that they're warning us where the bitey dogs are, but some work on the sites for lost and found dogs would be nice, too. It's a different kind of bite, losing your dog. But it's deeper, and it never really heals.