The low self-esteem crisis of a woman in New York's Hudson Valley was narrowly averted last month when, in desperation, and just moments away from comfort-binging on a pint of Ben and Jerry's 'Phish' ice cream, she challenged her border terrier, 'Bernie' to a Socratic debate.
"'Had him on the ropes from the opening statements and it totally changed my mood." said Darby DeMizo, of New York's North Highlands region. "I crushed it. He never knew what hit him."
DeMizo would often play-wrestle Bernie in the past as a way to gain superiority. "But I've gained weight recently and didn't trust my agility. But I felt pretty good about my debating skills." She also confessed to having an added advantage by hand picking a subject for the debate: fracking. "I've followed the fracking debate closely, but Bernie, frankly, is just an ignoramus." she said. "He basically froze during the debate. He had this classic, Rick Perry 'I can't remember the third one' moment."
According to DeMizo, a nutritionist for a Northern Westchester County health network, she had been suffering low self-esteem for weeks, brought on by the syndrome known as 'seasonal affective disorder', or 'SAD'. Her affliction comes as no surprise as the punishing weather during the depths of this winter season had exacerbated the frequency of the syndrome.
Beacon, NY psychologist Raymond Reyes has been tracking the SAD trends for decades. "This is the worst year that I've seen professionally, though I wasn't practicing in '86." said Reyes, alluding to another brutal winter, which, he reminded us, had the added challenge of "…the overexposure of Alan Thicke on TV."
DeMizo's experience was neither new nor surprising to Putnam County Humane Society volunteer, Elaine Broome.
"We've seen many people try to exploit the supposed inferiority of their pets to elevate their self-worth during difficult times. But we caution people that they extend a debate challenge at their own risk." said Broome. "This woman is lucky it ended well for her. Frankly, there have been many attempting this who have come up short in the process." she said.
She cited a case in Brewster some years ago in which a man challenged his border collie to a debate, but just hadn't prepared sufficiently on the topic. He opened himself up for a classic 'BAM' moment in the closing arguments.
"Actually, it was the dog's withering deadpan look, followed by his pitch perfect segue into a tongue bath that nailed it."
Broome cautioned that the man fell into a downward emotional spiral that didn't end until the arrival of spring, when he was pacified by the ability to rotate his favorite Air Supply t-shirt back into his wardrobe.
As for the overconfidence among humans who match wits with the animal kingdom, Broome had one final admonishment. "Debating with dogs is one thing but people should never to try this with cats. That rarely ends well for the human."