Sunday, July 13, 2008

People can be Animals but Animals can't be People

One of my favorite TV shows is The Dog Whisperer. I’m constantly amazed (just as the clients on the program are) at how this small man, Cesar Milan, can turn snarling beasts into cuddly puppies. How he can make dogs change their behavior and be redeemed. The word miracle is tossed around a lot. I’m not in the camp that would consider this a miracle. This is just good, common sense applied by a person who has studied dogs and knows how to help them break bad habits.

We (particularly in America) treat our pets as if they were human beings. My husband firmly believes that the way people handle their dog is a good indicator of what type of parents they will be...whether they understand that discipline and love are not mutually exclusive. We love our pets, seeking the best food, toys and medical care available. This is evidenced by the $39 billion spent on pet food in the US in 2006. That number has surely grown.

But they aren’t humans. They are animals. While pets bring joy and companionship to our lives and they seem to love us, they are still animals.

It is easy to forget this when they need costly medical attention. My daughter’s cat swallowed a long string…it cost me hundreds of dollars for that stupid cat to have the surgery it needed to stay alive. I’ve know people who didn’t have money in the bank to pay their mortgage but used a credit card for their pets’ medical care. Is this right? You be the judge.

We also forget that while they may be sweet, gentle and loving for six years and 29 straight days, the next day something may set them off and they attack a human. I have two wonderful dogs (a Rottweiler and a Yorkie-poo). The Rottie is so docile and sweet that everyone who meets her (even the vet) says she is exceptional. People can’t get enough of hugging and petting her. I have never seen her give the slightest sign that she would hurt anyone.

But she could. The possibility is always there and we never lose sight of that. We watch her carefully around anyone new and are especially attentive when children are at our house. The Yorkie-poo as well. My dear friend’s little terrier very suddenly attacked her baby granddaughter recently. This was a trusted family pet with no former displays of aggression. It was around the baby since she was born and without warning one day just snapped. The dog was taken away and so was the baby; to the hospital where she was treated and released. She’ll be fine but my friend is horribly shaken up. We agreed this was a good time for all of us to be reminded that animals are unpredictable and even small dogs can cause harm.

I just inherited a cat. He is so great. Beautiful green eyes, mostly black with some white on his mug and feet. He hangs out with the dogs, is playful and very affectionate. Last night he was about to snuggle up next to me when something startled him. I had my hand on his back so he fought even harder to get away… He layed tracks…on ME. I was a bloody mess with tear wounds on my face and arm and the whole thing only took seconds.

I’m not upset with the cat. He did what cats do when they’re panicked—they run for their lives. I just happened to be in the way. I’ll learn from this and let go sooner next time. I can’t expect him to behave like a human because he’s a cat.

The bottom line is we need to remember that God created us to “have dominion over the animals.” This doesn’t mean we are to abuse them, it just means there is a distinct difference between us and them and we need to remember that. We can’t be surprised when they do something they’ve never done before because instinct will override training and affection every time. I bet Siegfried (or was it Roy?) would agree.
Diane Markins


Bev McChesney said...

I'm probably not a good person to say whether or not we should treat animals like animals. We moved into a brand new home. Shortly after, I realized that either my cat or my dog (both of which were up there in age)was wetting on my bathroom rug. Fortunately the rug could be washed, but I was afraid this little habit would extend to the carpet. When I caught my cat in the act, she went bye bye. We got a goat instead.

Anonymous said...

Yes! I have a very stupid cat! Ever since that surgery she is still as hyper and active at eating everything she gets her tiny mouth on! But she is so much more cuddly... it's as if she understands what happened. She has also left tracks on me as well! it would take an act of God for Spangle to scratch me... I think!


Diane Markins photo by Focus Pocus Scottsdale, AZ said...

I pray every day for the new goat at your house, Bev!