I find it interesting that for a dog, the ultimate compliment, the ultimate praise, the pinnacle of achievement is the phrase, “Good dog.” What, your dog just fetched a ball? Good dog. He sat on command? Good dog. He saved a baby from a burning building? Good dog. Ok, extreme example, but you get my point: Whether an invaluable service animal or a family pet, the best thing you can say to your dog is that he is good.
We know, if we take the 3.5 PHB as canon, that most humans are, naturally, neutral good. If given the choice, average-guy-on-the-street will choose to do good, even if it means breaking a law to do so. We see examples of this general societal mindset when we’re outraged because a hero is punished for a life-saving action that violated a law or a company policy. Like this lifeguard, who was fired for saving a drowning man outside his “zone.” The lifeguarding company has offered the guy his job back, but think about it. If this guy had been LG, he would have let the guy drown, or at least alerted someone who could have saved him without violating his company policy. NG, save the guy without thinking about it. CG, I dunno, save the guy and then sue the company? The point is, put on the spot in a life-or-death situation, Average Person acted NG. Just like the PHB says he should.
But just because most people are neutral good, that doesn’t mean you can’t get plenty of exceptions that fall elsewhere on the spectrum. There’s the famous ones – mass murderers are chaotic evil, tyrants and dictators are lawful evil, blah blah blah. There are probably plenty of people you know that aren’t NG, and maybe even a few on the evil side of things. But those people still live and function in society. Sure, we have laws to weed out the chaotic bits, but what about the neutrals and the lawfuls? The people that work only for their own ends within the framework on the law, regardless of how it harms someone else? Think rules lawyers and that jerk that always finds a loophole. Honestly these people are everywhere.
Is that why we praise our dogs, however small their actions may be, with “good,” and we chastise them with “bad”? And really, calling a dog “bad” is pretty harsh. I’ve never snapped at my dog before, but last week he actually did something worthy of punishment (snapped at one of my cats) and when I said “Abner! Bad dog!” he looked at me like I’d slapped him. Then he laid on his bed for the rest of the afternoon looking really really guilty and upset. Maybe I’m anthropomorphizing (a little) but still. It’s not like I’ve trained him to retreat meekly to his bed at the word “bad”…he knew he did something wrong from the intonation and emphasis in my voice, and he was upset because he was bad.
Are dogs naturally good? Is that why we’re so primally attracted to them, because they naturally compliment our natural alignment? Is that why we look so harshly upon people who abuse animals and put bumper stickers on our cars that say “If my dog doesn’t like you, I don’t like you”? Are there dogs out there that are evil by nature in the same way some humans are evil by nature? Or have we, through selective breeding, managed to turn dogs into an only-good-aligned species?
I saw this thingy on the science channel once that talked about the existance of a “dark spot” or whatever within the brains of sociopaths. Then, the twist! The very scientist conducting the study found the same dark patch within his own brain and came to the conclusion – hold onto your seats – that even if someone has it within their nature to be evil, being raised in a happy/safe/nurturing/caring environment can overwrite that natural inclination towards evil. Could the same be possible for dogs? Are dogs who are raised to fight and trained to be evil – think pit bulls – evil by nature and then exploited? Or are they good by nature and then trained to be bad because it will please their owners and that, in the end, is what all dogs want – to please humans? If that’s the case, isn’t that good by nature – the desire to please surely can’t be an evil quality!
But that raises another question. Do evil people raise evil dogs? Do good people raise good dogs?
Dogs aren’t nearly as manipulative or secretive – or as good actors – as humans are. A dog can’t really hide his internal nature. If the dog is a jerk it’s going to bite you. If the dog is good it’s going to be good. Even a dog that chases cats isn’t necessarily bad, it just doesn’t understand that cats aren’t for chasing but that rabbits or ducks or whatever are. But a bad dog will bite at its owner’s hand for no good reason – thus the turn of phrase about biting the hands that feed you, right?
I’ve got no idea where I’m going with this anymore, but I guess it boils down to one thing: If you don’t like dogs, allergies excepted, then I probably don’t like you.
I’ve run some games with ‘hardcore’ Lawful Good NPCs that were total assholes. It’s a fairly rigid mindset and a little bit scary if you do it right. I had a friend play a paladin in one game I ran and he took it to a whole other level. “God says I need this to do his work…”+
And there’s really people in the world like that, right? But I would bet money that my dog, no matter how many times I tell him not to eat people food, no matter how often I leave people food laying around which he ignores because he knows he’s not allowed to have it, if I were to disappear and leave some chicken on the counter, he would say “screw the rules” and eat the chicken.
True enough! My dog thinks when I leave the house that I’m never coming back and takes it upon himself to feed himself sometimes.