In the February 1 edition of New York Magazine, the cover story, The Rise of Dog Identity Politics, elicited over 100 responses on their blog. I’m not convinced this article wasn’t yet another rehashing of so many we’ve read before about how we treat our dogs as pampered pets in today’s society but its’ scope was all encompassing in terms of the myriad levels of discussions it could provoke. Two basic categories stand out: the obvious, or superficial ways we humanize and treat our pets and the scientific, evidential studies that substantiate the underlying reasons for our behavior.
I don’t plan to detail the answers to all the underlying questions posed by the article but, they are definitely provide “food for thought” and will make for great dinner party discussions and ice breakers with fellow dog lovers at the next cocktail party. So, in no particular order, contemplate:
- What constitutes too much pampering for your pet? (Uh, like pet pedicures maybe and cologne for pets might be a bit over the top? I’m all for nail trimming, however)
- Should we really be dressing up our dogs? What does it really say about us and our priorities when we are willing to spend as much on our dogs’ sweaters as that of our own? (Yes, I do believe that some breeds need coverage while going for walks in cold-weather climes, but seriously, a Burberry coat?)
- Do you really think your dog knows the difference between a generic dog biscuit from the grocery and a carob-frosted donut from the corner barkery? (No, I really doubt he or she does but, to put it bluntly, any food product that reduces the amount of poop and gas my dogs emit rate an A+ in my book)
- Is it misguided or wrong that in her will, Leona Helmsley earmarked billions of dollars to provide for the care of dogs and that was her only specific charitable request? Regardless of where you stand on that matter, shouldn’t her wishes be carried out? Why is it that so few funds so far have been distributed to animal causes?
- If you are a vegetarian or vegan, should your dog follow-suit? (aren’t dogs carnivores? has anyone done a long-term study on the long-term health effects of a vegetarian diet on these animals?)
- Should all shelters be no-kill? How should the animal population be controlled so there are fewer strays?
- How do we educate people that pet guardianship is a serious responsibility — adoption is for life! We don’t give away kids that are problems do we? (ok, there are exception to every rule)
- Should all states enact spay/neuter laws for all pets being adopted? How should that be monitored (won’t everyone who doesn’t want to comply say they are keeping their pet for stud purposes)
- Were too many resources used to help rescue the pets of Hurricane Katrina at the expense of helping human residents (since so few resources in this case were Federal, who is to judge? However, the government does have pet rescue provisions in place for future natural disasters)
I’ll assume that the author of the article, John Homans, had fact-checkers, even though many of the scientific “facts” mentioned in his article were not specifically referenced. In any case, we know beyond the scope of this article that having pets has a positive impact on our health and well-being both psychologically as a stress-reducer and physically in the recovery from certain heart ailments and that pet therapy programs have proven to be beneficial to the recipients. Programs abound that study the relationship between animals and humans in addition to the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society, Companion Animal Behavior Program at UC Davis and Animal Studies program at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Given how much time, we, as humans, spend being mean and cruel to each other in this “dog eat dog” world, doesn’t it logically follow that the sky is the limit for the only creatures in our lives that love us unconditionally; the only creatures who are always there for us at the end of the day and first thing in the morning with a wagging tail and “smiling” face; and who can, in extreme circumstance, can save the day for us both figuratively and literally?