Monday, February 2, 2009


... as the surplus of cats and dogs (artificially engineered by centuries of forced breeding) declined, eventually companion animals would be phased out, and we would return to a more symbiotic relationship — enjoyment at a distance.
- Ingrid Newkirk

[Dogs] would pursue their natural lives in the wild ... they would have full lives, not wasting at home for someone to come home in the evening and pet them and then sit there and watch TV.
- Ingrid Newkirk

I found a dead baby mouse by the kitchen the other day. I think it may have been hiding beneath a laundry-bound, crumpled sheet on the floor when something, human or dog, stepped on it. Or maybe it died of cold and exhaustion. Maybe it was sick. I don't know. It looked sad, though, lying there on its own.

I was cooking and didn't want to stop to pick up the mouse and then have to disinfect my hands so I left it where it was for a bit but kept an eye on it in case the dogs decided to check it out. Stella and Rocky must've walked by it at least half a dozen times and didn't even stop to sniff the thing. Apparently, my dogs have lost all sense of self-preservational, carnivorous curiosity. They'd be able to survive out in the wild about as well as a geriatric dairy cow.


Most dogs I come across aren't meant to be wild animals anymore than we're meant to be elephants. I'm fine with that. I guess that's why I'm fine with dogs being pets because that's what the majority of modern dogs are created for. That's what we created them for. There's a bargain, though, and the bargain is that because we created them, we are responsible for them. They are not under Mother Nature's care. They are under ours.

That's why I find it confusing when someone compares our modern dogs to wild beasts and finds them lacking or unfulfilled because they are not able to roam across the wintry tundra hunting caribou or muskox. And I find it deeply misguided when someone suggests that pets should be eradicated because their lives are meaningless. Animals don't have meaningless lives because they don't give a crap about meaning. That's a human made self-affliction. Only people can feel that way. Only people can have meaningless lives.


I don't care if my dogs aren't too smart. I don't care if they're unambitious. I've often suggested it to them but I know they'll never go out and get a good education and become a doctor or a lawyer. They won't even shovel the snow off the front steps. Cook a meal or bake a cake? Nah, unlikely, though they do like to hang out in the kitchen.

No, about the only thing Rocky and Stella are good for is companionship. That's what they were built for. That's good enough for me.


Amy said...

Yes, companionship is enough. In fact, it is more then enough. I lost one of my two dogs yesterday to old age. I would give anything for her companionship right now.

Fred said...

My deepest condolences, Amy. May your memories of her remain happy ones.

Ian said...

My condolences on your loss also,Amy.

After reading more about Ingrid and her organization,I think perhaps she is a tad "off" as they say.

We have trouble getting our dogs to even go off the porch to pee in cold weather.
I don`t think they would do well in the wild.

Just look at the dogs that you had to move up front because your heat went off.

We also have cats that ignore the odd live mouse that comes in from the cold.
I wish the cats had retained a bit of their wildness.
We may have to cut back on their rations to force them into chase mode if that`s possible.

jan said...

What a great post!! you totally nailed it.

People I know don't go around wandering what meaning their lives have (at least past teenage angst). Companionship is what my four little guys provide and I have never seen an animal in the wild as happy as they are.

If that's what Ingrid thinks of dogs, I guess there isn't any question of why she just has them killed and stored in her walk in freezer.

Fred said...

Ian, I think if I cut back on my dog's rations, they'd just start ordering pizza. The last time a mouse walked by Stella, she looked at it then looked at me expecting me to do something about it.

Jan, I hear she's got an extra extra large freezer.

Joanne said...

Some interesting stuff about Ms. Newkirk from an article on the web by Michael Specter written for the Guardian......what was that about sociopaths starting out with fires, bedwetting and killing animals.......well...bit of a god complex no? Rather than help them, I will kill them..good grief.

In 1972, Ingrid Newkirk was 22 years old, living in Poolesville, Maryland, and studying to become a stockbroker. Her favourite food was liver. One day, her next-door neighbour moved away and abandoned nearly a dozen cats. 'They were coming on to my property and having kittens,' Newkirk told me during one of our many conversations over the past six months. She looked in the Yellow Pages for the address of the nearest animal shelter, then gathered up the cats and drove over. 'When I arrived at the shelter, the woman said, "Come in the back and we will just put them down there,"' she said. Newkirk was born in England and reared mostly in India. She had only recently moved to the US, and the phrase 'put them down' meant nothing to her. 'I thought, "How nice - you will set them up with a place to live." So I waited out front for a while, and then I asked if I could go back and see them, and the woman looked at me and said, "What are you talking about? They're all dead."

'I just snapped when I heard those kittens were dead,' Newkirk told me. 'The woman was so rude. The place was a junk heap in the middle of nowhere. It couldn't have been more horrible. For some reason, and even now I don't know what it was, I decided I needed to do something about it. So I thought, I'm going to work here. I went to see the manager, and he said, "We have one opening in the kennel." I asked to have it. He said, "What have you been doing?" and I said, "Well, actually, I am studying for the brokerage."' He laughed and told her she was perhaps a bit overqualified, but she begged him to let her try and, reluctantly, he agreed. The following day, Newkirk gave notice at the brokerage and started a new career.

What she saw at the shelter affected her profoundly. 'I went to the front office all the time, and I would say, "John is kicking the dogs and putting them into freezers." Or I'd say, "They are stepping on the animals, crushing them like grapes, and they don't care." In the end, I'd go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself, because I couldn't stand to let them go through that. I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day. Some of those people would take pleasure in making them suffer. Driving home every night, I would cry just thinking about it. And I just felt, to my bones, this cannot be right. I hadn't thought about animal rights in the broader sense. Not then, or even for a while after. But working at that shelter I just said to myself, "What is wrong with human beings that we can act this way?"'

Fred said...

I never did understand why she never made the next step to actually trying to save the animals as opposed to just putting them out of their misery. She's a very intelligent woman and obviously good at getting funding and people's attention but can't seem to get beyond that death will set them free mindset.

Lynda said...

Amy, please accept my condolences for your loss.

Fred, excellent post as usual. As for Ingrid, I do believe she's too smart for her own good. An old boss of mine had a Mensa IQ and he found it extremely difficult to function in our society. So he smoked a lot of pot. Ingrid, if you're listening......

House of the Discarded said...

Lynda: Don't tell my teenage son that - he swears that only the mega intelligent smoke pot. (I'm afraid he could be right!)

Thank you for the great post, Fred

Amy: (((HUGS))) You're in good company.

borderjack said...

to Fred:
And I'm sure your dogs take being your companions very seriously. Judging by how content they look, and how well looked after they seem to be, they are very happy doing what is to them probably the most important thing in the world.

to Amy: my condolences for your loss.

Cathrine said...

Ms. Newkirk is a typical modern Romantic, for whom everything wild is good, and everything touched by man is evil. It's the modern take on original sin. Like many of that creed, she ends up hating her own species, and doing inestimable damage to others by trying to return them to some mythical past in which everything was somehow 'in balance'.

Hot tip for all: nature was never 'in balance': if it ever had been, evolution would have stopped at the archeobacteria. Just how smart is someone who can't see the evidence before their eyes.

As for returning dogs -- or cats -- to their pristine wild state, I would point out that in the wild, most infants die within a few weeks of being born, of disease, injury, hunger or predation. None of these are peaceful, painless deaths. The average life span for a wild dog that survives puppyhood is 2-3 years at most, and those are lean and hungry years, full of the endless quest for food, fight for mates, defence of the territory, and other unlovely facts of life.

When I was somewhat younger than Ms. Newkirk at the pound, I, too, had an epiphany. The first major mall opened in our area, and it was decorated with large plexiglass enclosures full of small birds. One day while I was watching the birds flit, preen, flirt and mate, someone nearby launched onto a rant about caging birds that would be so much happier in the wild.

I looked at these little morsels of feather, and thought about crows and eagles, hawks and winter.

And I understood, more clearly than I can convey, why humans fled the jungle, and why caged birds sing.

Fred said...

Hi Cathrine. Welcome back. Haven't heard from you in a while.

Ms Newkirk's self hatred does seem to spill off herself and cover all of humanity doesn't it? I always felt that she was a Utopianist - someone who believed in the possibility of attaining some ideal - and as with all Utopianists, such as Communists, ethno-supremacists or religious fascists, the only way to reach their ideal is through some form of genocide.

Caveat said...

Gee, I don't think Auntie Ingrid knows what 'symbiotic' means.

I also doubt she's hung out with pariahs (as I have) to witness first-hand how much "better off" they are than our pets. What Ms Nutcakes is suggesting is that dogs should be fearing and avoiding us. She doesn't know Jack about animals, that's for sure.

As a friend likes to say "What wild?"

Anonymous said...

You are a beautiful writer and we are better for reading your thoughtful and caring observations. The image at the top of your blog (is that your dog? what a fantastic photo) is stunning. I am a first time reader and appreciate what I have read during my visit.

Our family has an old gal named Lucy, who looks to be a "quality lab" as the vet said when we first brought her in to be evaluated. She had been roaming our neighborhood, eating disgusting items out of people's garages, and seemed to know we needed her. Either that or we had particularly fine garbage in our garage. That was in October 2004, and she would tell you she has found a caring family but she is too busy snoring away under my desk right now.

Thank you for your efforts.

Fred said...

And thank you for visiting and dropping a line.

Yes, the header image is of my dog Stella.

I'm glad to hear you gave your neighbourhood dog a home. One of my earlier dogs, Sheba, a husky mix, was from the streets as well.