Apr 172011

“We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It’s the best deal man has ever made…”

Dog lovers often adorn their emails, websites, and social networking pages with sweet quotations like this one.  In general, these quotes are intended to illustrate how much we love dogs, not to be considered seriously.

At first glance these quotes are generally sweet and illustrate how wonderful dogs are—how generous, forgiving, and loving. However, in an effort to exalt dogs, many of these quotes are inaccurate and unintentionally send troublesome messages that have serious negative consequences.

While there may be some people who give their dogs only what time, space, and love they can spare, most people are every bit as committed and generous toward their dogs as their dogs are to them.  They sculpt their entire lives around making their pets happy.  Most of their income goes to their dogs, their weekends are spent driving to places and activities for their dogs, they spend hours creating perfect nutrition for their dogs and then grab a quick bite of whatever for themselves.  They take their dogs to the vet far more often than they go to the doctor, purchase houses they think will make their dogs happy, and then remodel them with flooring better suited to their dogs comfort.  We build ponds and pools and agility fields. We purchase vehicles based on how comfortable and safe they are for our dogs. We sleep on the very edge of our beds and do not get up to pee because we do not want to wake our sleeping dogs. We exercise them, we spend thousands of hours socializing and training them, and we design our vacations around where they want to go. We spend billions of dollars developing medicines and veterinary procedures to make animal lives better, and spend huge sums of money each year on toys and luxury items for pets. No question, dogs are wonderful, and so are most dog owners.

In addition to denigrating humans, many of these quotes seem to assign to animals some sort of idealized spiritual status—that they are kinder, gentler, less aggressive, more tolerant, and just all around more wonderful creatures than evil, detestable human beings.  I hate to burst the sweet Disney bubble, but animals can be and often are every bit as selfish, hostile, aggressive and cruel as man.  They kill each other for fun, they fight, they eat crap, they eat their own babies, etc.  It is great to appreciate and value the wonderful traits of animals, but sentimentalizing these traits and imagining that animals are all wise, benevolent, and enlightened beings is simply not true.

This may seem like an inconsequential distinction to make.  Surely it is ok to say sweet things about our beloved animals even if they are not quite accurate…  But the problem is that we live in a world that is becoming more and more intolerant of pet ownership.  A society that is passing more and more laws to protect sweet, wonderful, innocent animals from the evil of being associated with man. Many lawmakers and average Americans have become persuaded that interaction with humans is BAD for animals.  That surely these wonderful creatures deserve a life away from the exploitation and cruelty of humans. They have forgotten how much good we do for our animals, and we need to be very careful that we are not instantiating this skewed perception, and in fact that our statements reinforce what we know to be true.

The time has come to stop self-deprecating and stand proud: animals are great for us, and we are great for them.

 April 17, 2011  Posted by at 3:02 am

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