The value of having pets far outweighs any of the negatives associated with having a pet. Humans and animals have coexisted for quite some time. Beyond the time of when humans (hunted) animals, someone must have decided that it was going to be a good idea to make one of those animals part of their family. In doing so, the idea of “owning” pets and animals was born. While I understand the word “own” and contextually it might be easier to use this word, but do you really think you own your pet?
Yes, with certain animals, convention tells us that we need to ‘train’ our animals to respond to our commands. And yes, I will admit, I issue commands that I expect my dog to follow, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think there is a better way to do it. Let’s take a look at the language piece of this, first.
According to the Humane Society of the US [emphasis added]:
- There are approximately 77.5 million owned dogs
- Thirty-nine percent of households own at least one dog
- There are approximately 93.6 million owned cats
- Thirty-three percent of households own at least one cat
Using these statistics, it is accurate to say that 1 in 3 households has a pet (and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that 1 in 2 households has a pet). Notice that when I referred to these statistics, I said has a pet rather than owns a pet. About 10 years ago, there was an interesting movement in Boulder, Colorado, that advocated the relationship between humans and their pets no longer be referred to as ‘ownership.’ In its place, guardianship. Humans are the ‘guardian’ of their pet, rather than the owner of their pet. This quickly picked up steam and similar laws were passed in two other cities in California in the following year. As of April of this year, “…pet-owners in 17 cities, one state, and two counties in California can legally refer to themselves as animal guardians.“
As I’ve written about before, our words are powerful. In the near future, I will do a post about how our words can affect others (which will be more relevant to this post). The subtle difference between ownership and guardianship may really be enough to change the attitude of the “owner” such that they care just a little bit more for their animals. I’d like to think so.
Beyond the ownership vs. guardianship debate, having a pet can prove wonders to the health of the ‘carers.’ There have been scientific studies done (and many books written) on the topic of the many positive benefits to having a pet (a sampling: here and here). Two more things I want to touch on before I wrap this post up. The first has to do with animals and their consciousness and the second has to do with animals and our workspace.
I think one of the main draws to having an animal around is the pure joy that can be seen in them. That is, animals do not hold grudges, they’re not vindictive, they’re ever-present to the moment at hand. I think that part of their infinite joy stems from their lack of ‘stuff.’ As humans, we have lots of ‘stuff’ that we deal with. We have our stress from work, stress from news, stress from family, stress from kids, stress from friends, stress, stress, stress! Animals — none of it. They live for the moment they are in. When your dog whines at the door, it’s moment-specific. S/he wants to go out and play (or relieve themselves). They’re not thinking three steps ahead that when you let them out, they can run around the tree, sniff over by the bush, and then drink some water. It’s specifically in that moment that they want to go out. I think that because of this, they are much closer to a state of pure joy, more often. When I look at animals, I can feel this warming sensation in my heart. I think this is from that infinite joy they have that my heart is connecting with.
The second thing I wanted to talk about is actually quite practical. Did you ever notice being at your computer that your cat may come and sit on your keyboard or distract away from your monitor? Or maybe as you were moving your mouse to click on something, your dog came and pushed your hand off the mouse with your snout? It is my belief that our animals do this as a service to us. That’s right, a service. They can see the “bigger picture” around us and can tell that we’re in some sort of funk with what we’re doing at the computer and that we may need a break. Or, maybe that specific time that we were spending working on that project or idea would be better done at a later date. The next time your dog/cat (or salamander!) disrupts your computer time, think twice before you push ’em away.