Many years ago, I had a huge black and white cat named Tux who stuck with me through some lean times. He was the first of several felines that I successfully trained to do their business outside instead of in a litterbox. He was a good cat.
That winter was a rough one. Money was scarce and none of us were eating well (or often), including ol’ Tux. One cold morning, I got up and walked into the kitchen to find my path blocked by the cat, who bore an expression on his face and a note in his voice I had never seen or heard before. He looked me straight in the eye and said:
“Oh, so you think you’re heading to the toilet, do you? Oh no no no no no, hang on a second there monkey man, you ain’t going NOWHERE without feeding me THIS INSTANT right now. RIGHT. NOW. No, don’t try to pet me, I ain’t playin’ that game today.
“Listen, we have an understanding, you and me. You sleep in the bed, I sleep on the couch. You wake up and feed me, I eat. You leave and do whatever the hell it is you do all day, I take a nice eight hour nap in the yard, maybe climb a tree or chase a bug if I’m feeling ambitious. You come home and feed me again, I eat. We spend some quality time together: you get high and watch Star Trek and The Simpsons, I sit in your lap and allow you the luxury of scratching my ears and basking in my very presence. You sleep in the bed, I sleep on the couch. Pretty basic, really.
“So, what is your major malfunction here? IT IS TIME FOR ME TO EAT. NOW. I can’t even go outside and catch a rodent to nibble on because IT’S THE MIDDLE OF FREAKIN’ JANUARY. Why do you hate me? You know, I bet if I kept trying I could open one of those cans myself and it would save you a lot of … hey Hey HEY just what do you … oh go ahead just step over me, go right ahead, you asshole. Enjoy that piss, think I’ll go shit in your headphones. Meow, motherfucker.”
That account may be slightly embellished, but it’s pretty close. In response, I attempted to access whatever primitive wavelength cats and humans communicate on and told him:
“I’m sorry, cat. You’re right, I am an asshole. But you’re wrong if you think I hate you. It won’t make you feel any better, but I’m hungry too. More than anything, I wish I could make you understand this: when I leave the house, I have to go this horrible place called “work” where they treat me like pond scum and systematically chip away at my dignity and self-worth day after day after day. Whenever they feel like it, they give me a little white piece of paper that I exchange for little green pieces of paper which I then exchange for food for you and me. Well, they don’t give me that little white piece of paper until Friday, and today is Monday.
“But we do have an understanding here, so as soon as I’m done in the bathroom I’m putting on my boots and three layers of clothes and trudging through the snow to Safeway, where I’m going to shoplift some 9-Lives for you. Nothing with egg, I know. That’s right, I’m risking jail time so you can eat. I’m placing your needs before mine. That’s because I love you, even though you can’t love me back. I’m OK with that. I’ll be home in an hour or so, please don’t shit in my headphones.”
I’ve been warned not to write this.
It was suggested that people might hate me for stating my opinion on this subject, but I don’t care. Hey, life would be dull without some turbulence once in a while. That being said …
PETS ARE NOT PERSONS.
Your dog doesn’t love you, and neither does your cat. Or your hamster, ferret, snake, goldfish, parakeet, or pet rock.
Love is a complex emotion, and there is only one species on this earth whose brain is developed enough to invent such a thing. Guess who that is?
What your dog feels towards you is not love, it’s a combination of several emotions, including obedience and affection, that do not add up to love.
Does a pig feel love? How about a dolphin? Ridiculous questions, right? Well, pigs and dolphins are smarter and more evolved creatures than dogs, so wouldn’t it make sense?
Now, I have no doubt that you love your pets. I love dogs and cats too. But we are HUMAN BEINGS with great big brains. We can do all sorts of things animals can’t, like fly airplanes, do calculus, play the xylophone and create nuclear warheads. WE CAN DESTROY THE EARTH and Rover can’t even figure out how to use a doorknob and thinks the vacuum cleaner is his enemy.
Do dogs and cats feel happy or sad? Certainly they do. Anyone who has house-sat for a friend can recognize a dog’s mopiness when his master is gone, as well as the elation when he returns. THIS ISN’T LOVE.
Here’s a scenario: You have two dogs, Homer and Marge. When they go into heat they copulate, and Marge has a litter of puppies and they’re one big happy doggie family. Now, let’s say one time Homer hops the back fence and goes roaming around the neighborhood. He runs into Fifi who is also in heat, and she commences with the usual “Hey there big boy, check THIS stuff out” business.
What does Homer do? Does he think, “Wait a minute … sure this li’l cutie wants to get down right now, but I’ve got a perfectly lovely mate back home. Heck, she’s even the mother of my offspring! This is not a good idea. I’m sorry, pretty lady, but I’m going to stay faithful to my wife.”? Does the GERM of this thought even enter his head? Does he even remember Marge at that moment? Is not getting it on even an option?
Of course not. Homer operates on mostly instinct, and the scent coming from that female is overwhelming to him and his ONLY thought is “Oh hell yeah baby, this shit’s happenin’ RIGHT here RIGHT now in the middle of the damn STREET, in front of God and all the neighbors, I don’t care. Cars are just going to have to drive around us.”
Let’s take this one step further and say that after these two are done and Homer says “Sorry babe, gotta go” and returns home, what does Marge do? Does she say “Whoa there buddy, where have YOU been? Let me smell your crotch … I knew it, it’s that bitch Fifi down the street, isn’t it? Oh, you ASSHOLE!” and slam the bedroom door and lock it and lay on the bed crying? No, she doesn’t.
Now go ahead and plug people into this scenario instead of dogs. That emotion/thought process that causes the male to turn down sex with an attractive female who isn’t his wife is called LOVE. His libido is telling him to go for it, but love is canceling that command. Likewise, the betrayal Marge is experiencing that causes her to cry on the bed is also rooted in love. Animals do not possess it. They don’t get jealous. They don’t stalk their ex-girlfriends. The only thing that can override instinct is training, and no one’s figured out how to train an animal to love yet.
“Well,” you say, “they feel the dog version of love.”
No, they don’t. “The dog version of love” is something humans invented because we WANT dogs to love us back. It’s easy to love pets because they respond to it so unconditionally, as long as you’re feeding them. There’s no strings attached. You don’t have to take them to stupid movies or pick up their soiled underwear or listen to their crappy music or spend Thanksgiving with their moronic family.
If you’re in a bad mood and your dog senses this and jumps on your lap and licks your face, you feel better and say: “Aww, thanks boy!” It really does cheer you up, but this is all going on in YOUR head, not his. He’s just reacting to your bad vibe and desiring of your affection (or more food).
Let’s say your dogs are running around the yard playing with a ball. A friend calls and asks what you’re doing.
“Oh, I’m just watching my dogs play soccer.”
“Well it’s the dog version of soccer, but yeah, they’re definitely playing soccer.”
When you take Rover for a walk and he sniffs all the places other dogs have peed, is he just logging on to the dog version of Facebook?
When you and Rover play fetch, is that the dog version of the 10 Minute Workout?
As long as we’re making shit up, we can probably find an animal parallel to nearly everything people do. You know, howling at the moon is just the dog version of opera singing.
I think the problem’s roots lie in cartoons. The anthropomorphic beasts striding around upright and cracking jokes in those old Disney and Warner Brothers reels caught the public’s fancy, and why not? They were clever, sarcastic, lovable creatures without a care in the world who consistently outsmarted the doofus humans who were always trying to keep them down. They were cool.
Don’t you wish bunnies could play the banjo? I do.
Didn’t you want to help the coyote catch the roadrunner and snap his little wiseass pencil neck in two? Of course! Beep beep THIS, fucker.
Wouldn’t it be sweet to do bong hits and tequila shots with Kermit the Frog? Hell yeah!
Did you believe in Snufulufugus? I did.
Was Big Bird a lesbian? Think about it.
Remember when Elmer Fudd blew Daffy Duck’s beak off with a shotgun and Daffy had to pick it up and snap it back on his head? That was funny.
Is Fozzie Bear the George Carlin of the animal kingdom? Probably.
Doesn’t the comic strip “Marmaduke” suck? Yes, it does.
Worse than “Garfield”? That’s a tough one.
Don’t you want your dogs to wear fedoras, smoke cigars, drink whiskey, and play poker? Sure, you do. The image is almost irresistably cute. Even the crustiest old fogey would smile at that.
I would love to see a dog and cat band rockin’ out on guitars and drums while dressed up like KISS, that would be awesome. I’m not buying music lessons for Ol’ Roy and Mr. Mittens, though.