Today, despite all my efforts to better manage my time, I spent many minutes watching videos of actor Doug Hutchison, 51, and his new bride, 16-year-old Courtney Alexis Stodden. She's a good Christian teen who just happens to look like she could be Lindsay Lohan's mother. He's a smarmy actor I'd never heard of. Wow, I really don't care. And yet, I can't help myself. Tell me more.
This is a train wreck made in reality TV heaven. Indeed, they are already hard at work on a show about their lives. These two are clearly nuts, each in his/her own weird way. Or maybe they're the normal ones. Either way, I'm a little older than I was a few minutes ago. For the sake of getting a blog post out of this jettisoned chunk of my time, I thought maybe I'd take this moment to mention an unpopular opinion that is tangentially related to dog training: Maybe teen marriage is a good idea!
BF Skinner, the Harvard psychologist, was noted to be a gifted animal trainer. He taught birds to play ping pong and play the piano on cue. Most of the tenets of the kind of conditioning and reinforcement that are at the heart of so much of dog training stem from his work. But here's something many don't know about Skinner: He was a proponent of teen marriage.
In Walden Two, his 1948 novel of a utopia based on the principles of behaviorism, teen couples produced the babies that were raised communally, with lots of support from parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and all the other greats who would still be alive if generations were each only 15 years apart. This, he hypothesized, would mean all the more people invested in caring for and loving each new kid. As he writes in Walden Two, "What is love, except another name for the use of positive reinforcement?"
So, if love is positive reinforcement and positive reinforcement is the key to dog training then... I guess dog training is love. Wait, weren't we talking about teen marriage?
Thing is, the Stodden/Hutchison union is only a partial teen marriage. He is not a teen, and really he should know better. Creepy. Also creepy: The fact that every video I watched of them has some a dog playing the part of accessory.
In Stodden's music video, Don't Put It On Me, we see a white, nearly-hairless dog (a Chinese Crested?) with a pink poof on his head.
In an E! interview, he is stroking a tiny Yorkie. On Good Morning America, the two of them walked the Yorkie and a third dog.
But all my online sleuthing has revealed nothing about these poor creatures. Most people I know who have three dogs would mention something about them somewhere in public. Especially if they were giving non-stop interviews about love.
It all just reminded me of how fine a line there is between trying to make sure our dogs are happy and spoiling and flaunting them in a way that is meant to say something about ourselves. We've forced dogs into obligated parasitic relationships with us. I'm not saying we don't "need" them. It's just that the ways in which Amos helps me are less vital than the ways he needs me to buy kibble and bring him to the vet when he starts dragging his butt. Given this relationship, the least I can do is make sure my slave has a nice life.
And yet, they're parasites that can often become objects of conspicuous consumption. In this way, we're stuck in a kind of ecosystem not unlike the one we're in with the manicured lawns you see in suburbs located in deserts: the lawn needs us to survive and we need it to broadcast our opulence. Look at my bounty! I can even feed grass! And Yorkies!
Only thing is, this can become a form of amensalism -- a relationship where one organism is actually hurting the other. At what point does the dog get to say "I don't want to do the talk show circuit anymore!"
According to IMDB, Hutchison once had a Yorkie named Hopper. I don't know if Hopper is one of his current trophy dogs -- trappings of a level of celebrity that lands you Barbie-like 16-year-old wives and two-minutes on Access Hollywood. Whoever these nameless canines are, I hope they have a sizable part in the future TV series. They may just be the most interesting people in the show.