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Six Breeds of Separation

Six Breeds of Separation

On a morning stroll through town, I saw posters for Theatre Workshop of Nantucket’s production of Six Degrees of Separation. I asked my mom what the signs were all about. I won’t spoil it for you, but she told me the plot and that it was partly based on a New York Times piece that claims every human is connected with every other human by just six degrees of separation.

I guess residents of Nantucket are reminded of this every time they drive up Main Street or walk into Stop & Shop, but it extends far beyond our shores. I decided to do a little research of my own to see if the theory held water in the dog world.

I ran into a couple fellow mutts on the conservation path off of Hummock Pond Road. Even though we all came from different cities and areas, we were able to connect ourselves to the same pound in Mississippi through litter mates, crate mates and animal rescue volunteers. Amazing, huh?

The play also confronts racial and socio-economic barriers that divide the human population. My fellow mix breeds and I can relate to this on some level, especially as we see the summer residents returning to the island. In the winter months, there is a camaraderie among Nantucket dogs. For better or worse, everyone knows your business. Everyone has let their fur grow and no-one is really looking their best. It’s all about the walk.

Then there is a transition. You start seeing more pure-breeds at Tupancy with their heads held high and their fur coiffed to perfection. They have designer collars and clean paws not yet dirtied by the sand.

I don’t regularly suffer from low self-esteem, but I watch the summer dogs arrive and I look down at my collar aged with sand, mud and grass stains, and I peek back at my tail with the small kink in it and feel a little down.

Of course, this lasts about a minute before we start sniff each other and then suddenly there is a pack—one pack—of dogs wrestling and mingling. We’ve totally forgotten what our differences were. Once again, it’s all about the walk.

I’m once again realizing dogs function in a substantially simpler social context. To quote one of my favorite philosophical guides: “Everyone poops.” Now that’s something a dog can relate to.

I told all this to my mom, and she said, “Well Marty, humans are more complicated. You see, every person has preconceptions of how others should act and interact. Race, economic status and social standing are issues that we have been battling over for years. And when you look at the historical context… ”

At this point, I got distracted by a squirrel in the yard and didn’t catch the rest of my mom’s explanation. But I bet it was really profound.

So if you’re like my mom and you prefer a more insightful dose of the human experience, which most humans do, it sounds like TWN’s Six Degrees of Separation will give you plenty to talk about.