Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Power of Dog

“It’s nice to share a religious experience with my pets,’’ said Lynda Juppe, who lives in Tewksbury. “‘God’ is ‘dog’ spelled backwards. Here, you know you’re with dog people, and you can’t go wrong with dog people.’’

From Paws and Worship, Boston Globe 30 May 2001

Apart from a saucy quip by Sr. Mary Bernadette and the simple comfort that one gains in having a pet, the article reveals a sort of unholy intersection of values which are in stark contrast to mine: first, that one’s life is at the mercy of God, and second, that animals have cognitive powers that equal one’s own (this may very well be the case in a few rare instances, but to assume this of others is just bad manners).

If you are not attempting to enslave me, kill my dog, or anyone else in the name of that which you worship, then I really don’t care what you value beyond human life, be it deity or dog. I don’t discount the power of either of these values in the lives of those who adopt them, merely, that there is no logic which compels me to  adopt them. The problem arises when religion or the anthropomorphization of animals informs the law. Laws founded upon these notions – abortion laws, limits on stem cell research, animal welfare laws – are in direct violation of the individual rights our government is supposed to protect.

On a matter related to the comforting power of pets, in visiting my mother in the hospital recently, we were treated to a little visit from Nina, a certified therapy dog (it said so on her ID badge)!  She was an adorable white . . . are you ready for this . . . Pekingese! So cute, I had to ask twice if her owner was sure that she was a Pekingese!  Anyway, the dog was definitely delightful and sweet, but I had to wonder: apart from the simple joy seeing, petting, and possibly holding a little dog could bring to a little kid, does a brief visit from a cute pup really bring comfort to folks in the hospital? 

I’d guess that seeing the same dog on a regular basis during an extended hospital stay might brighten those days, but I would think that letting the dog hang out on your bed and getting to stroke its soft, clean fur for some significant amount of time might make you feel a little better – not the meaningless four minute visits. Some quick research on the subject reveals that pet ownership is what is therapeutic to convalescing adults, while pet visits may prove more therapeutic in redirecting the attention of children in pain. [1][2][3][4]

And speaking of anthropomorphizing animals: Is it just me, or do you swear this dog is about to say something worth hearing? And not just because it can talk, but because it is sure to sound like Aslan, King Moonracer, or James Earl Jones – the voice of God, if you will – as it conveys its wisdom onto its loyal subjects? I find its face hypnotic and have changed my desktop background so I can see it every time I’m at the computer. I wonder if it will affect my psyche and my decision the next time I’m in the market for a dog.

Used with permission.
“Kat” is a female Cane Corso and matriarch breeding stock of StoneCroft Cane Corso in Virginia.  And I love the way she looks.

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