On Sunday night, my daughter read aloud to me a passage from a textbook for a zoology class she is taking in summer school at N.C. State.
In the text, the writer argues that animals were never intended to be domesticated and that people, despite their best intentions with regard to their pets, can’t really make their dogs or cats happy. He goes on to say, that since we have committed this grievous sin, we are now responsible for taking care of these animals which can no longer take care of themselves, since we have subjugated them to domestication.
Finally, the writer argues that we cannot have the same kind of relationship with animals that we have with other people. I agree with that last comment, but only to a point. There are different kinds of relationship, even among people. We have loved ones – people for whom we would do anything and with whom we sometimes have a physical relationship. We have friends – people with whom we enjoy spending time. We have acquaintances – people we know and interact with, but don’t invest in emotionally. And, of course, there are many other kinds of relationships we have with other people.
But I would argue that we all develop intense relationships with the pets in our homes. We get joy from their company. We feel an obligation to meet their needs. We delight in their joy and experience pain when they hurt.
Those people-pet relationships can be incredibly strong. And, if the writer is correct that people should not have domesticated certain animals, well, then, it’s a mistake I, for one, am willing to accept.
Our family pet is a 11-year-old pound hound. He was about two years old when we brought him home. He has spent the past nine years thanking us for plucking him from the pound with a huge dose of never-ending love. His large personality entertains us many times every day and he has a sense of duty to protect us and take care of us in ways that only a dog can.
And, when he got in a fight Wednesday night with a snake, we returned that love. My wife, Becky, and daughter, Pitt, exhibited panic and fear in epic proportions. I loaded up the dog and took him to the emergency vet’s office in Durham, where it cost me $240 for an exam and some painkiller. Heck, I wouldn’t spend that kind of money on my own healthcare.
Since the dog’s initial run-in, we have all watched over him to ensure the bite was no worse than it was. And we’ve celebrated daily as his personality returned to normal.
Whatever that writer thinks about the relationships between pets and their owners, he’s never come across Riley and his people.
Many of us have similar stories about a beloved pet who was as much a part of the family as grandma. Pets keep us sane in a sometimes insane world. And they do it with a simple purr or a strenuous wagging of the tail. And, right or wrong, we’re all glad they are part of our lives.