Saturday, September 03, 2011

Our Doggly Duty

We created dogs.  We are their Gods.  The hundreds of recognized variations now exist because we've been playing with their genes for generations, designing customized abilities and instincts into them to serve our purposes.  Everything from the Great Dane to the Chihuahua and all the sizes and shapes in between.  They've had our collective backs throughout the whole of recorded history, and likely several eons before that.

Dogs are our responsibility.

I could get on a rant about PETA and the USHS but I think I've already gone there.  Suffice to say they can go frag themselves.  Or each other.  I don't care.  But keep their screwed up philosophy away from me and my dogs.  My cats too, as it happens

Dogs understand humans much, much better than we understand them.  And that's a tragedy, given that we're almost as likely to encounter a dog as encounter another human in any number of different urban and rural environments.  We need a comprehensive program to teach people about them.  And I don't mean the Dog Whisperer crap.  Let me hand over a clue--dogs (and wolves) aren't little soldiers who need a drill sergeant in their lives.  Pack order doesn't work like that.  Not for wolves and not for dogs.

One of the most vital things people overlook is this basic fact:  Dogs must be socialized.  The higher potential danger the dog represents, the more s/he should be socialized.  The excuse "I don't want the dog to be too comfortable around my friends" (just in case said friends are likely to steal all your stuff, I guess) doesn't really fly.  I know you bought the pitbull to keep them in line, but dogs understand the concept of property just fine.  They don't care if the guy scratches them in that special spot behind the ears if he's in the house without permission.

Exceptions might be found, but that's true of just about anything.  The presence of the dog is a serious deterrent for strangers.  If you're worried about your friends stealing from you, you don't need a dog.  You need better friends. Dogs can read human expression rather well, which means they generally have some idea whether you trust someone or not and will act accordingly. 

In my latest novella, I imagined a world where they'd bred dogs for intelligence and ability to communicate.  It's interesting to consider what they might become if we did that. But then we'd have to confront our history--if dogs became as intelligent as, say, your average 7th grader, what would we do with them?  Could we own them?  Or would we simply become their guardians?

I believe that if we were really smart, we'd be breeding dogs for intelligence and ability to communicate, on top of more specialized talents like bomb-sniffing and the like.  That, however, doesn't seem to be the goal.  Too bad.  We're instead breeding dogs for trivial cosmetic traits and the apparent purpose of passing along genetic damage.  Tragic.  We actually have some idea of what we're doing.  We no longer have an excuse.  We now understand why dogs are so easy to modify.  They're built that way.  Convenient for us... less convenient for them.

Dogs deserve better.  There are anthropologists who believe that civilization might not have been possible if not for the assistance we received from dogs in the early days of our conversion from hunter-gatherers to herders.

Yes, it's vital we protect people from dangerous dogs.  But we're also obligated to protect dogs from dangerous ignorance.  It's entirely possible to do both at the same time.  If we have the sense and the will.  Maybe it's time we rethought what dogs should represent to us--and treated them with the honor and respect I believe they've earned.

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