Are Dogs Just Furry People?

No, they aren’t. Sorry to break your hearts, but they are, as far as I’m aware, just animals. Now, we can love animals, invite them into our homes, and treat them with affection, but they remain animals. I felt compelled to set the record straight due to some creepy trends.

A recent study showed that 83% of pet owners call themselves, “mommy” or “daddy” when speaking with their pets. Yeah, they speak to their pets. I guess dogs can recognize many words, so maybe that’s not crazy. But giving birth to a canine would be. Also, in the study was that 70% of pet-owners sign their pets’ names on greeting cards, and 78% give their pets “several gifts a year.”

I think I realized that it was I who was out of the mainstream, not pet-mommies and daddies, when my college roommate’s girlfriend (now wife) told us she was late because her family had to take their dog to get surgery. When she described how expensive it would be (over 5-figures), I couldn’t help but asking a few questions. “Dogs can get surgery!?” “Why would your parents spend that much money on that?” “Why didn’t you just get a new dog?” The questions seemed logical to me, but after the glare I got, I could tell they struck a nerve. I decided to shut-up because I wanted to stay friends with her, but my opinion of doggie surgery hasn’t really changed much.

It boggles my mind that people justify spending so much money on animals by buying them gifts and giving them top-notch medical care? One woman recently gave her entire $13 million inheritance to her cat. And a young man has spent over $60,000 trying to get a dog back after his girlfriend left him and took it with her to the West Coast. The most telling quote from this story, which you can watch by clicking the name below is, “Knuckles is my son. And I don’t mean to come off like he’s more important than an actual human child, but to me he is.”


Picture of the $60,000 puggle named Knuckles

I’m insensitive I guess. Or maybe selectively sensitive. I think I’m just more sympathetic to the plight of beings driven by consciousness over those driven by instinct. Squirrels build their nests in trees and look for nuts. They won’t just decide one day, to build a house boat and grill a steak. They live by instinct and therefore do not make conscious decisions. We act on instinct as well, but we can also reject our instincts to kill, steal, and rape, and choose instead not to. A human could live their entire life, and many have, as a celibate pacifist. I have some compassion for animals, because I think causing any living thing unneeded pain is cruel, but when there is a conscious mind on the other-side of that pain, that is when I am more sensitive.

The distinction is lost on many people though. I enjoy some reality TV, if for nothing else, as sociological research. On Morgan Spurlock’s FX show, “30 Days,” people are sent to live with their ideological opposites for 30 days to see if they can start to see the other perspective. It leads to some very interesting television. One time they took a deer-hunter from North Carolina, and sent him to be “educated” in the lifestyle of PETA activists in California.

At one point, they took him to a petting zoo for abandoned animals and had him volunteer. I’ll never forget the horror on the face of the woman who ran the zoo, when he asked her something to the effect of, “If somebody was going to kill either one of these animals or me, and you got to choose, who would you pick?” It didn’t even take her a second, “That is obvious!” she said, shocked he would ask such a moronic question. “These animals are my family and I barely know you!” Her family. She is the donkey’s mommy so this poor guy would get the gun apparently. This is where this unbalanced view of animals would lead.

Your dog and a stranger’s young boy are in the middle of the road. A truck is bearing down quickly. You only have time to save one. Of course you would save your dog. It’s part of your faaaamily.

I once saw an online poll which asked, “Are you more upset by an abused animal or a starving child?” I had to vote to see the results, and picked starving child, hoping to God that I was in the majority. To be honest, I don’t remember the results, but I remember they were very close; much too close. I was pretty angry about it actually. Take a look at these two pictures. Can you honestly say you have a hard time deciding which is worse? Or which makes you more “upset?” (For the record, I would kick 50 puppies to save one child.)

If you picked the dog, please bang your head against the nearest wall. I’ll wait…

Really though, are pets somehow more inherently valuable than cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens? I eat them everyday and feel no guilt. If we got to know the cow, would it make it worse to eat it? Is it just based on our connection to an animal whether it is more important than a human child, or just dinner?

No, our emotions don’t create a being’s inherent value. Many simply rely on their pets for emotional connections they aren’t receiving with fellow humans. And for that reason, they elevate the importance of this connection to the level of  a human relationship. This can be useful if you are living alone and a little companionship helps you get by, as long as you keep in mind that the dog remains a dog, and you remain a you. Do not allow yourself to become one of the extreme cases that would rather let another human being die than for that crutch of a relationship to end. If the crutch gives you the illusion that sufficient love exists in your life without other conscious humans around, you may be in danger.

All this brings up a business idea that I had recently. I have hesitated to bring this up because I’m sure some would see me as a monster, but I see a gold mine. A lot of people love puppies. And who wouldn’t. Like this one for example. Aesthetically pleasing little thing.

But once the dogs get older, people sometimes grow tired of them and abandon them, hence the overwhelming number of “shelter animals.” Now hear me out. What if we were to find a home for these animals? What if that home were somewhere in Asia with a hungry, loving family sitting  around a dinner table? Would that be so wrong?

My business plan would involve renting the puppies to people, so they can enjoy the aesthetic joys of having a young canine. Then, once they got their fill, and have taken care of a lot of my business-overhead by housing and fattening-up our stock, we ship the less cute, full-grown dogs over to Asia to provide a cheap source of protein. Everybody wins.

Many of you will have gasped in horror, but think about what makes this wrong. We eat so many other mammals of equal intelligence. Why judge other cultures for not making an illogical distinction between species? Hey, even our president did it as a child in Indonesia.

I’m not really sure what the cause of this trend is (viewing puppies as of equal or greater value to humans). It could be our increasing isolation because of the break-down of the American family. It could be our growing self-obsession that leaves much less room for other humans (due to the fact that they have needs greater than a full doggie dish and a scratch behind the ears). Or it could be the fact that trendy neo-Pagan, earth-first, naturalists have tried to paint the human as a cancer on this planet and animals as the new noble savages. Whatever it is, it’s creepy and I’m asking all of you to stop.


Posted on May 17, 2012, in Culture. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Wow, never thought about the need to critically analyze our mysterious emotional connections with our pets, but you’ve presented a good case for the need to better understand such extent of care as well as our priorities. I know our family pets get better medical care than The Castro Family in Cuba and perhaps comparable or better care than them, even as they jet off abroad to be served by capitalist, highly trained medical professionals… Amazing! Makes one think.

  2. Thanks Alex! I love animals but just get a little worried when some people place the pets before people. It seems like a bad trend

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