One thing that sometimes weighs on me as I walk Margaret or take her to the dog park, is the notion that if we hadn't brought her into our home to raise her (and I mean 'we' in the broadest way, as in human beings) far from being miserable and unable to meet her needs like a human baby would be if it weren't being cared for by adult humans, she would probably be very happy.
The two biggest treats we can give her is to take her for an unleashed walk in the woods or allow her to play with other dogs. Basically, to do things she would do if humans had never intervened in her life. (to be sure, cuddling with humans is also one of her favorite things, but she seems to enjoy cuddling with other dogs equally as much. Also, it is true some dogs don't like other dogs, but that is because they weren't probably socialized when young. Virtually all dogs who are properly socialized while young love other dogs)
To be sure, if humans hadn't intervened, she wouldn't exist. As we know, humans, either deliberately or not, played an integral role in selectively breeding wolves to become dogs. So it is true that she owes her existence to us humans, and will probably have a longer and healthier life than if humans had never intervened.
However, bringing something into exists does NOT give an individual the right to treat it however they want. In fact, I think bringing something into existence obliges you to give it the best life possible. It seems unlikely that Margaret (whatever hypothetical version of her might somehow exist had humans not intervened) would be unhappy without humans. As I mentioned earlier, her favorite things are whatever is closest to her natural state. And even the toys and bones and other dog products we give her, which she loves, are based on imitating what she would be doing in the wild. As much as she likes them, she prefers whatever they are trying to imitate or replace.
This is why I feel obliged to allow Margaret a certain level of freedom. Some dog owners feel comfortable disciplining their dogs for any behavior they dislike, such as barking while playing with other dogs or playing roughly (which looks painful for the humans watching, but is lots of fun for dogs). I can't help but feel that for those who are uncomfortable with these and similar behaviors, the best solution would be to not own a dog, rather than modify healthy behavior to suit their personal taste.
We have brought dogs into our world and unfairly expect them to understand and obey all our weird complicated rules and then discipline them if they don't.
Of course, like a human child, because she has an inadequate understanding of the world, there are things Margaret wants to do which would ultimately harm her, like run into the road or eat toxic things. Obviously I don't feel a need to allow her those freedoms.
Marissa works in a restaurant about 100 feet from where we live. Several of her co-workers are dog lovers, so I occasionally will stop by Marissa's work so they pet and play with Margaret for a bit. One day they wanted me to bring her over, but she clearly wasn't in the mood, running into the closet when I brought out her harness, so I didn't take her. One co-worker expressed disapproval that I wasn't being the one in charge. But since I ( meaning we, meaning us humans) have brought this creature into an environment that is less desirable than her natural one, simply for my own pleasure and companionship, I feel a certain amount of indebtedness to her. If there is something she really doesn't like doing, and it doesn't harm anyone or her to not do it, I don't believe it is my place to make her. Many dog owners disagree. They believe dogs should be dominated and conform to whatever standards their human owner expects of them. This is the message of Caesar Milan. ( I have a strong dislike of his methods which place enormous emphasize on disciplining and dominating dogs.) To those people I say: You should not own pets. Like you and I these creatures have a full range of emotions and do not exist for the purpose to serve you or make you happy. They exist for their own sake and should be allowed that dignity. If you have brought them into your life, you should do what you can to make it safe and enjoyable for them and consider their wants and desires to have as much value and merit as your own. If their desires conflict with your so much where only one or the other could be happy, don't own a pet.
I often imagine if a species far advanced from humans adopted us as pets. Their society would be advanced to the point we couldn't comprehend many of their rules and actions, but they would give us everything we wanted and let us sleep in their beds and gave us lots of affection. It might be nice, but I would miss my freedom and getting to live in human society. I try to imagine how I would want those hypothetical aliens to treat me and treat Margaret the same.
- ► 2010 (126)
- ► 2009 (76)
- ► 2008 (118)