Friday, July 18, 2008

Blogs vs. Dogs

**WARNING... if you think the things I said about gods were bad, you might really hate what I have to say about dogs**

Since I'm a biologist, it's hard for me to truly dislike any particular type of animal. After all, every species evolved in response to natural selection, becoming charmingly suited to its own unique role in the environment. For example, the fearsome and cunning wolf, it's predatory and social instincts perfectly adapted to hunting and living in packs, is an admirable creature, indeed...

...lending its majesty to dark print t-shirts around the world.


It's unnaturally-selected descendant, the domestic dog, not so much. Just as the dog's outward appearance has been reshaped by thousands of years of selective breeding, it's mind has also been warped from its natural state. Indeed, dogs' dumb affection and tame submission to humans is the result of selection for genetic mutations that cause them to stay in a juvenile psychological state. Far removed from the wily wolf, the dog is now a hapless and dependent creature that exists only to gratify the egos and quirky emotional needs of dog owners, via it's childlike love and loyalty, and its biproxy expression of the owners' aggression or vanity.


Since humans are responsible for creating dogs as we know them, I feel that humans ought to be responsible for their dogs' behavior. For example, when a dog menaces me with aggressive barking, or obnoxious pawing and licking, I consider the owner no less culpable than if he had molested me himself. When his stinky dog leaps in my lap or crowds me in the car, the stank of greasy hair and body odor might as well be coming straight from him, since he's the one that chose to have the dang dog.

...All reasons why I have chosen to satisfy MY ego and quirky emotional needs with a BLOG instead of a dog. This way I can fulfill my desire for attention and interaction with no smelly poop to clean up or expensive food to buy. :P


Andy said...

Hey man, a lot of us windsurfing folks are too smelly, broke, and late for dinner to get any human significant others to hang out with us...

Jeff said...

Dog breeding for image rather than overall physical/psychological health has produced malformed animals that emotionally-nearsighted owners desperately spend thousands of dollars to fix. Now you can get a hip replacement for your "purebreed", canine chemotherapy/radiotherapy when they get cancer, and even pharmaceuticals to treat OCD and other psychological disorders. A "puppy in the window" shop recently opened in our town, which is a disgrace when so many dogs are euthanized every month at nearby animal rescue shelters. Do we really need more "puggles" and "labradoodles" when hardier mutts are being put to death?

All this said, it is possible to enjoy the companionship of a dog and be healthy and balanced about it. Cesar Millan, aka the Dog Whisperer, goes to great lengths to encourage owners to stop treating their pets like people, and instead see species first, breed second, and individual pet third.

This is why I must rally and defend the dog, and especially Wind Dogs. It's not their fault that they've become so screwed up. Your post should be about irresponsible dog owners and breeders. Perhaps we should be examining what is it about our society that drives so many fill their psychological holes with pet companionship.

Farrah said...

and I thought I was the only other person in the world who is annoyed by dogs....(ok not all the time, but it has to be a super smart, clean, well-behaved, athletic dog).

Johnny Douglass said...

Be patient; this is about dog excess. Yesterday I arrived early at Office Max in Olympia, WA to return an item. There was an attractive young woman outside staffing a Dare table. She was jumping up and down and slapping herself. I asked what was wrong and she said she was freezing and trying to warm up, that she had recently moved here and was not yet accustomed to 55 degree summer mornings. I asked how she got roped into being a Dare volunteer so soon after her arrival. She said she wasn't a volunteer, that it was her job. She came to town to go to Evergreen State College but her elderly dog got canine leukemia and she had to forego enrolling and take the Dare job to pay her astronomical vet bills. I felt like asking, "Duh, did you consider humane euthanasia?" but I sensed that wouldn't go over well. Instead I helped out by buying her youngest age Dare product for my baby granddaughter (i.e. you niece). It was a CD and story book set called (you guessed it) Puppy Dog Tales.

Catapulting Aaron said...


What about when dogs were bred to help people hunt for food to survive? Or dogs that were bred to help herd animals for food? Once things like that are in place, it's not too unusual to think of sociological or cultural reasons that people continued to keep dogs, despite them not being used for their original intended purpose.

To be honest, I'm not a dog-lover and NOTHING bugs me more than a dog running across a rigged sail. That said, why rain on other people's parade? Dogs get people outdoors, appreciating the nature that you hope to protect...

Just because people have dogs doesn't mean they have some Freudian Penis-envy complex. They might have dogs because they want to meet women. That, my friend, is a worthy cause...


James Douglass said...

Andy- I hear ya. We windsurfers are always coming home late, smelling like hose. Only a dog could love that.

Jeff- Thanks for the great response and links. If all dog owners were as in-control and as sensible about the human / dog distinction as The Dog Whisperer, then I would probably hate dogs a lot less. :)

Farrah- It's ok to come out of the closet as a dog-disliker. Perhaps it will help dog owners realize not everyone "feels the love" like they do when jumped on and licked by a hairy animal that eats poop.

Dad- That was gentlemanly of you to be charitable and to bite your tounge about how ill-advised you thought the young woman was. You can save the candor for your blog.

Aaron- Yeah, I know dogs had a lot of important uses historically and still serve some practical ones now. I.e. sniffing bombs, assisting blind people, biting fleeing criminals in the testicles, forcing lazy slobs to at least walk to edge of the neighbors' yard twice a day, and helping silly dog owners meet and mate with other silly dog owners. But when I wrote this post I was more in the mood to rant than to attempt a fair and comprehensive analysis of the complexities of dogs in society. :P

Mary said...

Hi James. I could also easily write a rant about all the things I don't like about dogs. The doggie smell is a big turnoff to me, plus the licking, jumping up on you with those big dirty paws... One of the things that most annoys me about certain dog owners is their idea that it is somehow cruel and against "nature" to restrain a dog on a leash. Hence, you get dogs running wild on the beach, harrassing shore birds, destroying nests, and just in general creating mayhem. I have also known my share of people who seem to have a not-quite-healthy level of attachment to their pets, sometimes even overshadowing relationships with human family members. However, having said that, I'd like to make a case for the value of a healty human-pet relationship. I'm not really surprised that you don't get it, knowing that your parents aren't really "animal" people either. Maybe if you'd spent more time with me or your Granddaddy, you'd have a better understanding of it! Anyhow, it's sort of like explaining religion to a non-believer, but I'll give it a try.
At its most basic level, the attraction of a pet is just the simple fact that we enjoy feeling a bond with another living creature. I think the desire to connect with other living things is probably a natural, "hard-wired" response for humans as well as most other animals. It's easy to see how this could have evolved, if you consider the many advantages it would confer. Social systems probably couldn't exist in humans or other higher animals without it. People, with our giant complicated brains, have learned to satisfy this basic need to connect in many different ways, the keeping of pets being just one of them. It's interesting to me that people can form "pet" relationships with all sorts of unlikely creatures, from reptiles to insects, spiders, fish, chickens, and even weirder stuff. Dogs and cats, though, have some obvious traits that make them great human companions. I don't think it's at all "unnatural" that human beings domesticated dogs and cats, and have been selectively breeding them over the millenia. Both of these species are ideally suited both to be human companions, and to perform valuable services for their Homo sapiens caretakers. Speaking from a personal point of view, Tom and I get a huge amount of enjoyment out of our relationship with Nelson (our cat, for those who don't know the family.) We don't have children, and we both recognize that on a certain level he's kind of a low-maintenance, furry child. It's fun and gratifying that he sits by the window watching for me to come home from work every day, that he can't wait for Tom to sit on the couch so he can put his paws on Tom's lap and stare up adoringly while he gets petted. He's endlessly goofy and entertaining with his antics, and he obviously loves being with us and misses us when we're gone. Yes, it might be weird and twisted if we didn't also have normal relationships with the human beings in our lives, but our bond with Nelson is just one aspect of our pretty normal & healthy social lives.
I hope you will one day find an animal you can feel attached to in this special way -- you don't "need" it, but it adds a different dimension to your life that could be fun to explore!

Love, MG

James Douglass said...

Aunt MG- I pretty much agree with you. We are social animals that thrive on emotional interactions with each other and with our pets. Like you, I reckon relating with pets is a natural thing that can enrich our lives. Even me and Johnny miss our kittycat Horatio, and your cat Nelson is definitely a sweetheart. I guess there's just some variance in how much enjoyment different people get from pets versus how much they mind the inconveniences of taking care of them. For me, I like petting and playing with cats, and to a lesser extent, dogs, but not enough to trouble with owning one at this point in my life.

On a vaguely related note, I read an interesting book recently about the evolution of human social interactions with each other and how religion gradually came about from that. It was called "Evolving God" and the author was Barbara King (not Kingsolver). She's a biological anthropologist at William and Mary who studies apes.