“People call him the Mayor of Brooklyn Heights.”

So said a woman about her dog to a man who owned a different dog as they stood in the middle of a Brooklyn Heights sidewalk while their dogs sniffed each other.

A classy looking biped dog dressed as a gentleman from an 1877 edition of Mother Goose's Nursey Rhymes.
I would have taken the lady seriously if her dog looked like this fine gentlepooch. Clipped from Mother Goose’s Nursey Rhymes (1877) on Project Gutenberg.

I wondered to myself whether telling anyone who takes any interest in your dog that people refer to your dog as Mayor of Brooklyn Heights actually counts as “people” calling your dog the Mayor of Brooklyn Heights. But while I wrestled with this (not) difficult question, I thought of one of the sayings of Epictetus from his classic Enchiridion. We turn to chapter 6 of the Elizabeth Carter translation:

Don’t be prideful with any excellence that is not your own. If a horse should be prideful and say, “I am handsome,” it would be supportable. But when you are prideful, and say, “I have a handsome horse,” know that you are proud of what is, in fact, only the good of the horse. What, then, is your own? Only your reaction to the appearances of things. Thus, when you behave conformably to nature in reaction to how things appear, you will be proud with reason; for you will take pride in some good of your own.

Epictetus (Tr. Elizabeth Carter)

We can adapt Epictetus here:

Don’t be prideful with any excellence that is not your own.

Epictetus (Tr. Elizabeth Carter)

Sound advice.

If a dog should be prideful and say, ‘my owner said that people call me the Mayor of Brooklyn Heights,’ it would be supportable.

Nicholas Ferrell

The dog would be objectively correct. While the dog would not have the same objective basis for being proud as the handsome horse in the Epictetus example, we can understand why the dog would be proud in light of the fact that it is a dog. (This is not to say that there are no dogs with an objective basis for being proud.)

Digression: I think that some dog owners are taking the “furbaby” and “substitute child” views of their dogs too far. Why are dog owners in Brooklyn taking their dogs inside establishments that sell or serve food. Why are dogs sitting on chairs and tables at those abomination outdoor dining sheds and chicken coops? Dogs are not clean. This used to be understood. Now establishments have to put up “no Fido” signs, which Fido owners nevertheless liberally ignore. You can think of Fido as your son or daughter, but you should not need to be reminded that Fido is a dog. Please train Fido to not bother others. Lest I forget, please pick up after Fido (and watch what he eats).

But I digress. Let us return to Epictetus.

But when you are prideful and say. ‘the people are saying that Fido is the Mayor of Brooklyn Heights,’ know that you are proud of what is, in fact, only the good of the dog.

Nicholas Ferrell

The Epictetus example falls apart a bit here. I never said that Epictetus’s chapter was on all fours (pun intended) with the instant cautionary tale.