What’s the Point of Pets?

Last week a large portion of the chit-chat at work was about the new puppy that one of my coworkers and his wife just got.  I think the new little guy is a rescue dog, because apparently he doesn’t want to be a house pet.  My coworker said that every time he takes the dog outside it wants to run free and he has to force it to go back inside.  He already has a contractor scheduled to come out and install a fence in his backyard.

One of my other coworkers was talking just today about her complete unwillingness to leave her dog at a kennel when she goes on vacation.  From what I could overhear of the conversation, she doesn’t trust kennels to properly care for her pooch.

Sorry, but I can't stand bichon frise dogs

My closest neighbors have a little bichon-frise named Diesel.  Diesel and I have lived next door to each other for two years now.  And he still barks every time he sees me and chases after me if he’s outside when I walk past.  I always speak to him, in a friendly voice, mind you, and I’ve done the whole bending over to let him sniff my hand and recognize that I’m a friend thing.  He still barks.

I have two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo.  They are sister and brother.  I’ve had them since they were born.  Torpedo was literally born into my lap.  I had to do a lot of laundry that day.  I think I might have touched him before his mom did.  He likes to watch me get ready for work in the morning and talk to me when I’m on the toilet.  Butterfly is more stand-offish, but she does like to help me fold laundry and make my bed.  She’s always, always talking to me, and for the life of me I don’t know what she wants.  But both of my cats are incredibly astute about judging my mood and snuggling accordingly.

My brother and Skunkers (he's gonna kill me when he sees this)

My friend Kristine has a cat named Skunk, called Skunkers.  She was given that name because we found her in the greenhouse of my aunt’s house and thought she was a skunk at first.  She had been abandoned by her mother at a very, very young age.  I’m not sure if her eyes were even open yet.  Kristine hand-fed that little skunk and she thrived.  Today Skunkers sleeps in Kristine’s bed and acts as her therapist and alarm-clock.

Okay, what’s the deal with people and pets???  Why do we keep animals in our houses and treat them like humans?  Why do we let them run our lives?

Hear me out on this one.

I once did some extensive research on how animals were first domesticated way back at the dawn of history.  As you would expect, dogs and cats both were domesticated so that they could perform specific tasks for humans.  Dogs were needed to keep herds of larger animals in line, to alert hunters to possible danger and aid in the hunt, and to guard children.  Makes perfect sense.  Cats….  Well, I’m still not convinced that cats really are domesticated.  But they are useful for keeping pests away from gardens and food supplies and small children too, I guess.

It makes perfect sense to have domesticated animals working alongside humans.

Butterfly looking deceptively angelic

Dude, I live in an apartment on the second floor and my cats never go outside.  Mind you, they love to go out on the balcony, especially when it’s sunny and they can turn into puddles of cat on the concrete.  But there are no mice in my building.  Downstairs and over one Diesel does nothing but bark all the time and occasionally chase after things.  He doesn’t herd anything, and even though he might alert his family to intruders, he has no sense of discrimination at all.  And bichon-frise dogs are basically glorified chew-toys anyhow.

Why do we continue to keep animals in our house when they have no practical function at all anymore?  I mean, how many Labrador retrievers live in New York City?

I know, I know, it’s all about the emotional impact they have in our lives.  And countless studies have been done that show that people with pets live longer and are generally happier than their non-pet counterparts.  And I hope my kitties live very long lives with me.  But if you look at it from a purely practical point of view … what are we thinking?

I suppose that the evolution of keeping cats and dogs and birds and snakes and turtles as pets hearkens back to a time when they actually did have a function in people’s everyday life.  Why not let the hunting dogs pile into the family beds at night or the barn cat sleep in the house?  Maybe when they got older the family figured the good and faithful servants deserved some warmth and love at the hearth.  That makes sense.

But herding dogs living in urban apartments?  Chemotherapy for cats that runs into the thousands of dollars?  To me that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.  And I know I’m going to get in serious trouble for this one, but treating pets like humans, putting them above people?  That’s just wrong.

Case in point.  My dad’s wife is a dog-lover.  She spends so much money on her Great Danes that it’s ridiculous.  Danes are not small dogs.  Hers have pretty much ruined the house they live in, tearing up the yard and chewing the molding in most of the rooms.  Her reaction?  They’re just doing what dogs do.  EXACTLY!  So why are they in the house eating gourmet food that is mail-ordered and ruining leather sofas?

This is what I have to deal with every night when I eat - aka Torpedo

Okay, what’s my point here?  My point is that we are silly, sentimental humans to bring animals into our homes for no reason other than that they’re cute.  I love my babies, after all.  We’ve always had cats and I only lasted about three months living on my own without a cat in the house.  It’s so nice to have another sentient being to come home to at the end of the day, especially when they wait by the door and stick their cute little faces in the window as soon as they see me.

But for gosh sakes, people!  They’re animals!  There’s no need to let them run your lives and send you into financial ruin.  Sometimes I think that we’ve completely lost perspective on the role that pets play in our lives.  They’re there for us to love and enjoy, but the way some people act you’d think we existed to pamper them.  The worst part of it is that I think in so many cases we’re doing our pets more harm than good by overfeeding them on foods they don’t naturally eat, keeping them in cramped conditions, and prolonging their lives long after they would have and should have naturally ended.  Is that really love?

So treat your pets well, folks.  Let them do what pets do in the environment they were intended for and within the time they are naturally allotted for their lives.  And don’t let them chew up your furniture!

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3 thoughts on “What’s the Point of Pets?

  1. I actually agree with this. I love my pets dearly, but I think I would be hard-pressed to spend $3k if they needed some major surgery. Part of the problem is not so much the treating them like humans. It’s the irresponsibility. Letting the dogs chew on the molding and ruin the sofas is like allowing a child to do pretty much whatever they want. Animals need discipline, too. They need rules and routines. I’m having a very hard time right now because I live with my grandmother and she’s very much of the “Let them do what they want” mindset, even to the point where she laughs when they get on the table. Makes it tough when they do something I don’t want them to do.

  2. My pets are awesome (I’ve got 2 cats as well) but yeah, they eat a very simple diet of special cat biccies, and they certainly aren’t runing my finances!

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