Builds Upon: Misery Enablers
I remember listening to a woman at a social event talk about how she spent a thousand dollars on a surgical procedure for her dog.
This woman was not rich. She was a teacher living in an apartment. She had made a very substantial sacrifice to keep her pet alive.
Later, I wondered: Would she be willing to give me, a human stranger, a thousand dollars if I were in trouble? I doubted it.
The truth is that pets for many of us are far dearer than people. This truth tells us very important things about our culture and society.
In most societies there is hardly even a word for ‘pet.’ The concept barely exists. For most Spanish speakers, ‘mascota’ is about as close as it gets.
For most people on earth, the idea of spending resources on an animal that provides only company is ludicrous. Their lives are already filled with a family, a clan, and a community. Most people on earth have very limited resources. They live in crowded houses and would never think of going out of their way to acquire an extra non-human mouth to feed. Even more extravagant would be the cost of vet appointments, vaccinations, neutering, and especially surgeries. All a complete absurdity.
In what kind of society then do animals become more important than people? What kind of culture takes pride in sentimental attachment over bonds of loyalty?
I can well understand deep attachment to an animal. When I had no one I could really talk to through four years of high school, I had a dog. I’m not sure I would have survived without this dog. He without a doubt meant more to me than the surrounding humanity I had failed to bond with. Every night he slept on my feet when I would otherwise have been completely alone.
I understood intellectually that the dog would be considered a parasite from a biological point of view. I thought of any number of creatures that insinuate their way into ant nests, termite mounds, beehives… and cleverly impost as a member.
I even called my dog, “little parasite” as a term of endearment.
Now that my dog has passed away, I like to visit his grave site out in a patch of sighing sagebrush whenever I visit my parents’ house.
I have no plans to ever replace my dog at any point in my life.
I’ve come to understand that abundant pets are a symptom of social disease. A result of division and loneliness. Pets are compensation for feelings of alienation and fear.
They are an easy shortcut to acceptance and adoration from another being when we cannot get enough from people.
In wealthy, dying societies with few or no children, pets become child substitutes. Indeed, some of the dogs women love most have flat faces, large eyes, are completely helpless, cry a lot, and weigh 7-8 pounds.
Pets are substitutes for human relationships that we lack. For if we were truly socially fulfilled the very idea of a pet would never occur to us.