This blog post was inspired by Sarah Silverman’s comedy special We Are Miracles in which she says – amidst a bunch of other awesome, off-the-wall things – something about the fact that if Africa were a land full of stray labradoodles, our desire to care for and/or help its inhabitants would be way higher.
And she’s probably right. Weird-looking, curly haired dogs, big fluffy, pushed-in-face cats, iguanas, gerbils (though this one, I just don’t understand) – we love our pets, often more than we love humans, it seems. My aunt tells me this in every email she sends – people suck/animals are so much better.
Her “I’ve been burned one too many times” bias aside, I believe there are lots of people who feel this way. The question is why? Why would we care about animals more than we care about our own species? Is it because we see animals as helpless creatures, driven to build a life in a contaminated world of chaos, concrete, and poison? I know that’s being overly-dramatic, but it’s the truth. The poor raccoons have nowhere to go, and then we get pissed off when they set up camp in our attics. Is it because we think humans should just know better, and that if we suffer, it’s our own damn fault? Well, we should, and it is.
Sarah claims – and I agree with her – that we often feel such compassion toward animals because they “don’t reflect the shitty part of ourselves back at us”. They may frustrate us, sure – like when they chew all the shoes in the house, wreck the screens, or tear up the furniture – and we might even get angry, but that anger isn’t usually coupled with contempt. We don’t morally judge them. In general, we don’t think that they are out to get us. My grandmother’s cat Becky was the exception – she was evil. No, we just figure that they’re doing what they do.
We hold people to a different standard though. It only takes one lousy experience in public with a belligerent teenager, and you come out red-faced, tousle-haired, with a bad “it’s all my husband’s fault, he hasn’t spent enough ‘daddy’ time with her” taste in your mouth, and possibly the start of an ulcer. Your dog poops on the floor, you clean it. It’s nothing personal. You should’ve taken Gunner for a walk sooner.
Besides that, our sympathies typically go out to those who (mentally) hurt us the least, or love us the most, whichever way you want to “cup half full/half empty” look at it. It makes sense – you feel attached to people you enjoy being around, not those you don’t, and our pets – meaning by association, ALL pets – are our most treasured of friends. They never move away, or steal your boyfriend, or say that they’ll come out dancing and then go off to spend the night with some hoochy girl from another school. Seriously, talk about betrayal.
No, pets are just there, their head on your lap while you cry through The English Patient or the finale of Grey’s Anatomy. They are there to lick your hand when you lose your job, or when you twist your ankle by tripping over your own sock. They are there getting fur all over your clothes just as you are headed out to an important business meeting, or worse, to a funeral. Yes, they reel you in by meowing or ruffing or hissing or silently proclaiming, “I’ll be there for you – always. I would literally die for you, or almost die for you. I’m an animal. At some point, it will be my instinct to run OUT of the burning house, but I’ll yelp to let you know when I’m leaving.”
All this to say that every time I see that SPCA commercial on abused dogs, I almost call in and give them unlimited access to my VISA card, so what if my family starves. That little quivering fox-like pooch – wow. Stop it television and SPCA staff. You are preying on my motherly caregiver sensibilities. It breaks my heart. And then I hear of another animal – one much closer to home – that has been abused and needs a family to call its own, and my husband and I need to have that talk again. Can we get a fifth pet? No. You are a terrible, uncaring human being, and I am so loving and willing to make our house a petting zoo. It’s a wonder we stay together.
They say good sex trumps pretty much everything, but that’s the subject for another day. FYI dear, someday I WILL have a small farm.