Like many Americans, I own pets. Yet I think I'm kind of a looney when it comes to my pets since I don't like the term "own'" for these little furry or scaley beings that share my home. Yeah, I paid money for them...But I think that term is a little insulting to the furry American that lives with me, rent free, in exchange for cuddles. I often find myself pondering our relationship and what it should be. Do any of you do this?
Before I get into my thought processes when pondering this sort of thing, I should say that I find it disgusting that more people value animals above other people, like, say, people being exploited by the sex trade or childhood marriage or what have you. I don't see a lot of Americans setting up rescues for child brides of the Arab world, or young boys and girls of the sex trade, unlike quite a few Americans that have specific breed of dog rescues set up around our nation. I think more people should do more to rescue these children and adults constantly victimized by someone else's greed.
My mother actually has a tarantula rescue...perhaps for tarantulas that have trouble in their relationships with their owners or weren't properly potty trained and the owner gave up on them. Who knows. But, I'm not a big fan of spiders, I tend to think of them as a necessary evil. I know they eat more bothersome pests and so I'll let them live...but not Black Widows...they can all die or go somewhere else.
But, I digress...I do spend some time pondering how I would like to be treated if my and my dog's situations were reversed. I tend to wonder what a species would be like that would keep me as a pet: would they be aliens or perhaps gorillas that were super smart? And how would I interpret their actions if they did what I do to my animal family members?
For example, recently my female dog had puppies. We totally planned this for her, but really left the actual getting pregnant up to her. We made the male available yet didn't take huge steps to be nutty about it and artificially inseminate her or anything. Before we even attempted this, we got 4 puppies actually spoken for. We found out about dog birth. We bought a little kiddie pool and used our own blankets and towels to make her a little den. I dare say we did as much preparation for the puppies as we did for our own child.
Our dog had 5 puppies, so one of them is unspoken for, but I'm sure that will change in the near future.
Anywhoo...I sat there, at the edge of the blanketed kiddie pool thinking. How would she interpret me touching or holding the puppies? After I did hold the puppies, to determine their gender, she did a lot of licking. I thought back to right after I brought our son home and remembered her licking him and me wiping off the dog slobber. So our actions were roughly equivalent. She doesn't seem to be worried when I just sit there, but she does tend to get between our son and the puppies. She hasn't gone on the attack with anyone of the human family, only the other pets (the cat and other dog).
Well I thought about it. If I had been the pet of another species and they took my baby and even just cuddled it, I would have a big problem with that. It would take a while before I would trust that they weren't going to harm it or take it away from me.
Thinking of other situations, besides those baby related, if I had a cage to live in (like a rat or snake or what have you) I would be very uncomfortable if the species that kept me left my feces all over the place for days on end or rejected food around to rot. And how would I feel if they kept feeding me food I found unpaletable.
I know that humans are different than dogs or cats in that we like a variety of different foods. It tends to upset the GI systems of dogs and cats if the food is changed on a daily basis. Would these species be sensitive to that if they kept me? I would hope so. Would there be books on the care and feeding of humans in the human pet stores called "Man Cannot Live by Bread Alone: On Serving Man Meals to Make Him Thrive."
Most animals have a system by which to keep themselves clean. Man relies on a shower or bath that doesn't involve their tongues, unlike dogs and cats. But even with dogs we take them to get groomed and a proliferation of self grooming stores have cropped up in the last 5 or so years (cats get groomed but it's really borderline abuse in my opinion). Would the species that keeps us be as sensitive? Would they have similar shops called "The Damned Dirty Ape Grooming Salon for the Pampered Human"? I think that would be a great name for a dayspa! Don't you?
Well perhaps our pet status will come later on down the road, some could argue that some of us (you know who they are...living rent free, messing all over, hard to understand, don't contribute much to anything except maybe a laugh now and then) are already living that "dream." But on a mass scale, it hasn't happened yet. I do think about what I do to my pets and how I might interpret the same actions if they were done by my keeper. I understand that I don't completely think like a dog, I try to imagine a similar difference between me and my keepers...but I also like to think about a similar effort put forth by the both of us for some understanding and common ground.