Animal Tales and a Petless Paradise

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking down
the path through the wetland that’s on the way to work, and then I suddenly heard a woman
yelling. I looked over and saw a lady, maybe in her
mid-30s, who was screaming out, “Thomas! Thomas! Thomas!”. I thought, “Oh gosh! She’s lost her son! He might have fallen in the water …”. I
raced over to help and asked where she last saw him. She then said, “It’s okay, it’s okay. He’ll come out soon”. I replied, “You mean, Thomas is not a boy?!”. “No, no, no – he’s my little Jack Russel”. “Oh, okay – I thought he was your child!”. A few moments later, a wet, muddy terrier
came running out from the undergrowth. The weather was quite cold so he was wearing
a navy blue tartan dog-coat. She called out to him, “There you are you
silly duffer! You gotta stop running away like that!”. My first thought was, “Who gives a dog a
person’s name?!”. When I was a kid, dogs had names like “Spot”,
and “Benji”, “Ginger”, and “Socks”. It would be hard to mistake those for people’s
names. Just a couple of days ago, I was walking to
work again through the nearby forest and there was an elderly lady walking with her Cavalier
King Charles Spaniel (I had to look that name up, by the way). The dog had a pretty pink bow in its hair,
so obviously it was female. I see this lady and her dog at least two or
three times a week walking through the same section of parkland, but I had never heard
the dog’s name before until a couple of days ago. The lady called out, “Genevieve! Genevieve! Come here girl!”. Oh come on! Genevieve? Really?! Clearly, people have begun to humanise their
pets. They dress them up in bows and coats, and
give them human names. They take them to special pet salons and spend
up to a hundred dollars on getting them professionally groomed, styled and perfumed. Of course, there are also the pet owners who
think their animals can’t do any wrong (I guess, MOST pet owners). Whenever a dog comes racing up to me and starts
sniffing my leg, the owner usually calls out and says something like, “Don’t worry,
he’s harmless! He wouldn’t hurt a fly. He might lick you to death, though!”. It’s always the same spiel. Everyone’s dog is harmless – until they’re
not. One time when we were living in Brisbane,
I would take my two-year-old son down to the local park. The park had lots of signs up stating, “This
is not an off-leash park. Owners will be penalised”. However, this didn’t stop the locals from
releasing their hounds every afternoon. Dogs would be running about all over the place. All of them would of course say things like,
“Don’t worry, Cooper loves children!”, or, “Bella just wants to have a sniff – she
doesn’t bite”. Anyway, my boy was running around and then
a ball flew straight past him. So of course, he starts to bumble after the
ball. A dog then came hurtling in and smashed straight
into my son. He flew maybe a metre and a half. Of course he was crying, but luckily uninjured. The owner came racing in and saw that my son
was okay, and then started joking, “Haha, sometimes Max gets a bit carried away! Don’t worry though, he’s a complete softy!”. We didn’t get an apology. The owner didn’t put Max back on his leash. They just continued playing ball as if nothing
had happened. Another time, the same park. A dog came racing up to my son and started
sniffing him. He started to get a bit scared and turned
to run. The owner of course shouted out, “Don’t
worry, she loves children!”. At that point, my son kind of backhanded the
dog as he was trying to get away, and then the dog bit him on the finger – luckily
not seriously. The owner saw this, but instead of apologising
and disciplining her dog she said, “Your son shouldn’t have stuck his hand in her face! Of course she’ll bite!”. Anyway, we got into a bit of an argument,
but I ended up walking away. The lady couldn’t admit any wrongdoing. First of all, it’s not an off-leash park
– there were signs posted everywhere. But every owner seemed to flagrantly flout
the rules. Secondly, dogs aren’t people and don’t
obey human customs such as looking out for toddlers when they’re running, or not sniffing
little children’s crotches. Thirdly, a child doesn’t know not to react
to a pestering dog. How can owners possibly expect all children
to know how to deal with their wandering mutts. That afternoon, I sent an email to the local
council and explained what had happened. They ended up ringing me and agreed that things
like that shouldn’t happen. They promised to send out more patrols to
the region in the future, but admitted that it would be unlikely to be more than once
a week due to a limited number of staff. So of course, the locals would still come
down to the park every afternoon and let their dogs race around the field. In the end, we just avoided the open areas
of the park and would stick to the small playgrounds instead. In the past, I’ve worked with people who
love their dogs or cats so much that they have pictures of them on their desk at work. Half their conversation would involve something
do with their pets. During their lunch break, they would scan
eBay and the like for new toys and clothes for their animals. Personally, I find it all very ridiculous. I understand that many of these people are
lonely, so a pet is a great form of companionship for them. I know there have been studies done that show
that there are lots of benefits to be had when being a pet owner. Things like reduced anxiety levels, lower
blood pressure, improved immunity, it helps people socialise, it helps children develop,
etc. But quite frankly, and this is probably rather
contentious, I think animals should not be pets. Sticking a bird in a tiny cage is wrong. If the bird can’t fly, that’s torturous
to the bird. I saw some songbirds in China who were kept
in tiny cages. The owners would keep them near the kitchen
window so they could hear their lovely song every morning. That’s disgraceful in my opinion. Surely the natural sounds of the birds in
the environment would be far more pleasing than caged ones. But unfortunately, many of the animals in
China have lost a lot of their natural habitat due to the ever-growing human population. I’ve read stories of puppy farms where dogs
are treated as nothing more than breeding machines, used to produce puppies for profit. This happens in Australia, too (I’ve posted
the RSPCA link below). “Dogs are often kept in overcrowded and
filthy environments. Breeding animals may be confined permanently
in small cages, never being allowed out for a walk, to play or express normal behaviours”. Unless you actually visit the breeder when
you buy your dog, there is no way you would know whether or not your new puppy is coming
from one of these terrible farms. There is also the issue of pedigree dogs. Here’s a section from the RSPCA’s “Love
is Blind” campaign. “Many breeds of dog have exaggerated physical
features, which means they can’t breathe, walk or give birth normally. Many have chronic and painful ear, skin and
eye problems. These problems prevent many dogs from having
a normal and comfortable life. This results from breeding to pedigree ‘breed
standards’ that focus on appearance rather than selecting traits that are best for the
dogs’ health and well-being”. A much touted myth is the one where fish only
have a three or four second memory. This was often used to justify keeping a fish
in a tiny bowl. But it has since been shown that fish have
a much better memory than previously thought. Scientists now believe they can remember for
up to five months. Even the TV show MythBusters debunked this
myth. Even the whole idea of desexing I find detestable. What right do humans have of chopping off
a dog’s testicles? If we did that to another human being, we
would certainly be jailed – and rightfully so. In summary, I think animals are great! But they shouldn’t be pets. I find nothing nicer than walking through
a forest and hearing the natural calls of birds and the like. I enjoy looking at the fruit bats roosting
in the trees above. But I can’t agree that sticking a bird in
a cage is a good thing. I can’t agree that desexing a dog, putting
a bow in its hair, and covering it in perfume is nothing less than absurd. I’m sure many listeners will disagree and
say that as long as an animal is treated well, then it’s not an issue. I know, I’m in the minority – pet ownership
in Australia is high. Anyway, I’m not going to keep a pet, not
because I don’t like animals, but because I think the very notion of taking an animal
away from its natural environment is wrong. I’ll stick to my walks in the forest, thank
you very much.

2 thoughts on “Animal Tales and a Petless Paradise

  1. I live up on mountain (basically rainforest) and theirs a few properties up the road that have large aviaries in their front yards full all sorts of birds. I couldn't think of a more extreme form of torture. Someone should do an art installation at a popular beach-side promenade- one with bars, ice-cream shops, boutique clothing and accessories outlets, restaurants, etc. (Hastings St, Noosa?)- and have a few people (maybe with their legs and arms removed) in a small cage overlooking everyone else enjoying their freedom.

  2. Wow man, you are so refreshing to listen to. The way some people manipulate other life forms, violating their nature and physique, is extremely disturbing. And it's totally needless too, as their survival does not depend on the dog in any way, unlike some Mongol living on the Steppe, who totally depends on his sheep and cows. (At least they don't claim that they're biting off the baby goat's testicles out of love…)

    Just to make things even more controversial: I think the same standard could apply to human societies too, which actively alter, pervert, repress natural human inclinations. The history of our civilization abounds in sickening examples. To me, this pet-phenomenon is the product of the same social evil. Those pet owners are also victims and accomplices at the same time.

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