While shaking hands the other day, I felt thankful that we evolved from apes. Had we evolved from dogs, we’d greet each other by circling around with our heads down saying: “Wow, your nether regions smell great.” Reply: “Thanks! Yours, too.” Nevertheless, I still like dogs, despite their being what my grandmother used to call “forward”.
Psychologists say that you can tell how nice a person really is by how they treat helpless dumb animals such as household pets, small children, married men and the like.
This is so true. When I am out for dinner with my thoughtful wife, the moment the menu arrives in my hands, she pipes up with her little reminder: “Choose something the dog likes.”
Yet, I submit that we may be entering an era where some humans over-do the whole “animals are our children” thing. In Sweden, a pair of cat-ladies who took their pets around in pushchairs and fed them with spoons were thought of as rather charming – until one started breast-feeding her cat. That’s when people called police. The report from news broadcaster SVT was sent to me by reader Aalia Shan, who said, “Breast-feeding a cat is just too weird. I mean, it’s not like it was a dog.”
The same week, two women who had a difference of opinion on dog comfort ended up in a fistfight in New Zealand, the NZME news service reported. The first woman left her dog in a car with the window slightly open on a cool day while she did an errand. She returned to find her pet missing. (I wonder if she exclaimed: “Doggone”?) The next day she bumped into the animal in the company of a woman who claimed to have “rescued” it from her. Fists flew.
In Asia, there are a spate of funerals going on at the moment for Aibos, robot dogs sold by Sony in Japan until 2006. Sony has stopped making spare parts, so broken-hearted owners are holding Buddhist funerals for them, praying for their souls to find new homes, and shelving their bodies as “organ donors” for other robot dogs.
You might think that’s weird, but that’s no different from the uncontrollable weeping that follows when storage problems force you to get rid of part of your collectible figure collection, right? Right? (Help me out here, guys.)
I read somewhere that it is true that humans generate the exact same love-chemicals in their brains for pets as they do for children. When my friend’s cat died, she was depressed for days. I offered to put on a furry onesie and a haughty look, and slumping over her lap making a buzzing noise, but she declined. I am going to assume that this means she is getting over it.
When our goldfish (yes, it was called Goldie) died, I emptied out the water but left the tank there for months, labelled “Chameleon”. It became the centre of attention for all our visitors, some of whom spent a surprisingly long time trying to see it.
It was by far the best (as in “cheapest”) pet I ever had.
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via his Facebook page)