At the risk of sounding a lot like Darth Vader, I am going to write about how I don’t understand why people keep pets of any sort. This is about to sound a bit curmudgeonly, so forgive me.
We (my family) are currently harboring three dogs in our house. Until three days ago, we used to have two. Now we have three. And the new addition is just three months old. Adding a third dog in the house annoys me half to death. Wait! Let me rephrase that. It annoys me to death.
I am a very sane human being who happens not to believe in pet ownership. The rest of my family believes otherwise. Do I hate dogs? No I do not. I just don’t understand people who treat them as if they were human beings, in the same way I don’t understand selfies and Justin Bieber.
The other members of my family, walk the dogs, feed them, take them to the vet once a month, wash them twice a week, clip their finger nails and so on. While I, on the other hand, just try to go on with my life as if the three dogs don’t exist, all in vain of course. You just cannot avoid three slobbering and loud dogs. And then there is the constant kissing them and talking to them as if they understand, which is just borderline nauseating. You see there is the paradox at the heart of having a pet: owners love them because they aren’t human, and then spend their lives treating them like people.
“Jun-Jun(name of one of our dump dogs) why did you pee here? You are supposed to pee outside.” said my sister speaking in a rather soft voice so as not to upset ‘the dog’. Just so you know she happens to yell at me if I did not make my bed.
Why, why on God’s green Earth are you kissing the Dog?! You did just see him kissing his own butt right!
To give you a sense of how I feel when I am accosted by our dog, let me put it this way, on any objective scale of socially acceptable dog behavior-if there is any- he is the worst. He’s loud. He’s inconsiderate of people’s personal space—if he’s left free he won’t watch where he’s walking and will run into you, either on purpose or accidentally. He’s jumpy and fidgety in confined spaces; in a car it is physically impossible to restrain him from going nuts. He bits himself often, and I’m quite sure he kisses his own butt a lot.
Weirdly, irrationally, despite all this, my siblings love him unconditionally and they just don’t understand why even strangers wouldn’t want him around all the time. Indeed, they think almost everything he does, even the inappropriate things, is the cutest behavior ever exhibited in dog history. They are protective of their dogs just as much as Taxi drivers are protective of their car doors.
It was Charles Darwin who said our domestic dogs descended from wolves and jackals, and though they may not have gained in cunning, and may have lost in wariness and suspicion, yet they have progressed in certain moral qualities such as affection, trust-worthiness, temper, and, probably, in general intelligence.
But when the dog next door keeps barking for no reason at all, and gets lost when he somehow escapes out of the house, it makes you question if dogs really have advanced in any sort of general intelligence.
Barking dogs have always been a source of great annoyance. Our next door neighbors used to have a big dog. Their dog is so stupid that he barks, and then barks at the echo, thinking it is another dog barking back. The fact there is an echo tells you how loud the dog is and how it intrudes into the lives of everyone within roughly a one-kilometer radius.
Based on what I have witnessed, it’s the majority of dogs that seem to be problematic. Otherwise, isn’t it a massive coincidence that roughly half of my immediate neighbors throughout my entire life have owned annoying dogs? If it is only a minority, then I must be the unluckiest person on the planet to come across so many bad dogs and dog-owners.
During holidays, the other idiotic dog in the house keeps barking. His problem, we have a sheep in the house to be slaughtered for the holiday. The dog barks probably because he doesn’t want to be mistaken for a sheep. In the night like that when ovine world is under attack, the only means for animals to save their skins is to identify themselves correctly.
It’s Friday night, and my sister is running around our neighborhood, barefoot, screaming, “Apu!”(The name of the other mug in the house) at the top of her lungs, and shaking the dog’s little toy over her head like a maniac doing a rain dance. Usually when our dog runs away, the sound of her toy brings her home, and tonight is no exception. She streaks down the street like a bolt of lightning, skidding to a stop in front of our house. The look on her face reminds me of an obnoxious next door teen busted for going around the neighborhood ringing everyone’s doorbells: Who, me?
And then there is the issue of stray dogs. Growing up, if we ever encountered a crazy looking dog around the neighborhood, our parents advised us to avoid eye contact with the dog and walk away subtly. So we did.
Although humans have kept pets since time immemorial, in traditional Eritrea companion animals were unheard of. Domestic animals such as dogs, cats and other animals, had jobs to perform; they were not companions. Cats kept mice and rodents in check. And dogs, which are doted on by loving owners today, were used for hunting, herding and guarding. Dogs were utilitarian animals, not necessarily members of the family.
In Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories book, the Woman picked up a roasted mutton-bone and threw it to Wild Dog, and said, “Wild Thing out of Wild Woods, taste and try.” Wild Dog gnawed the bone, and it was more delicious than anything he had ever tasted, and he said, “O my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy, give me another.”
The Woman said, “Wild Thing out of the Wild Woods, help my Man to hunt through the day and guard this Cave at night, and I will give you as many roast bones as you need….”
Wild Dog crawled into the Cave and laid his head on the Woman’s lap, and said, “O my Friend and Wife of my Friend, I will help your Man to hunt through the day, and at night I will guard your Cave.”
Around the world, in England the dog has been a member of the Royal Family for ages. So much so, the social status and unlimited funds of kings and queens often meant that pooches were given the full royal treatment. In America, there are around 78 million domesticated dogs, while a lot of dogs owned by former Presidents have spent majority of their lives chasing balls in the green yards of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Presidential Dogs have been part of American Politics to the extent where September 23rd is Dogs in Politics Day.
In the ancient world, dogs were around before the written word. The ancient temple of Gobekli-Tepe in Turkey, dated to at least 12,000 years BCE, has provided archaeologists with evidence of domesticated dogs in the Middle East corresponding to the earliest evidence of domestication, the Natufian Grave, (c. 12,000 BCE) discovered in Ein Mallaha, Israel, in which an old man was buried with a puppy. In ancient India, Mesopotamia, China, Mesoamerica and Egypt, the people had deep ties with their dogs; this was also common in ancient Greece and Rome. Ancient Greeks thought of dogs as geniuses, as ‘possessing a certain elevated spirit’. Plato referred to the dog as a ‘lover of learning’ and a ‘beast worthy of wonder.’ The philosopher Diogenes of Sinope loved the simplicity of the dog’s life and encouraged human beings to emulate it. In many cultures throughout the ancient world, dogs figured prominently and, largely, were regarded in much the same way that they are today.
So, why my dissatisfaction with the domestication of Dogs. Well, for one, I am allergic, also I’m not very patient. I’m too self-absorbed to ever think of having a dog or any pet for that matter and I’m not really that interested in or fascinated by dogs, let alone talk to them as if they understand every word I am saying.
You obviously want to shake me and tell me to snap out of it, to get over myself and just love dogs already. But that’s because you like dogs and don’t see anything but good in them. For you, a dog is like ice cream. What churl doesn’t like ice cream? Well, I’m that churl—I’m canine intolerant.