Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dogs and gods

Was reading Dispatches from the Culture Wars and he was blogging about a rabbi who things that caring for pets leads people away from the bible. Bahahah how nuts I thought at first, but then I thought further about how could sharing your house with a dog lead you away from needing a god in your life.

Disclaimer - I have 2 dogs. They are super cute even when they need a good brush. They sleep on the bed at night and don't have a job other than to be companions. Milo guards us from the wind while he dreams, under a tree at the far end of the fence, of long walks outside the yard while Duffy can barely stand to be away from his humans, flopping down close by whenever possible. When I talk about a companion animal I can only reference dogs (and fish) because that's mostly what we've had.

One thing having a pet shows you is that we are not the only species that has an emotional life. It may not be *our* kind of emotion but if animals "work" by instinctual response then we do too. Pets are generally responsive to each other and humans. Even if we are anthropomorphizing, that wouldn't be possible if we didn't recognize some basis for that, not many people get as attached to even their cars the same way. 

Another is unconditional love. Unlike the unconditional love that God is suppose to have for you if you accept him and his son and the contradictory rules set out in his book, dogs are there to greet you happily no matter when you get home or what you treat them like when you get there. If you are sad they can provide warm body to hug and ears to whisper your loss into. You don't have to do anything special and they won't blab.

All pets teach you about death and how to be humane. Most dogs have a shorter life span than humans so if you have one, you are likely to have to deal with  loss. Our first dog died while on a walk; my first brush with sudden death. Carrying him home was indescribably and I don't know that I would have been more affected by the sudden death of an acquaintance. He carried a lot of pain for me in his life and taught me to grieve publicly. Our second dog had a rough go. When he was 2 he developed autoimmune disease and liver failure. We got him back to health but then he got kidney disease. By the time we realized what was going on it was too late. We took him to the vet to be put to sleep because it was more merciful than having him lethargic and vomiting blood for the short time more he was likely to live. I wanted so badly for the vet to provide a miracle cure but it was not to be. He taught me to make hard decisions.

When you live with a house animal companion, you see that personalities aren't restricted to humans which leads away from the idea that we're super special and thus away from a need for a god. So I guess I agree with the rabbi; we just disagree about whether this is a good thing.