Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Canine companion culture and disability

Enjoyable article on cultural attitudes towards "companion animals" ("pet" is out of fashion. but is used throughout the article [1])

... as a rule, people fall into one of three broad categories of beliefs concerning pets. Members of one group, which he labels “dominionists,” see pets as an appendage to the family, a useful helper ranking below humans that is beloved but, ultimately, replaceable. Many people from rural areas — like the immigrants Dr. Terrien interviewed — qualified.

Another group of owners, labeled by Dr. Blouin as “humanists,” are the type who cherish their dog as a favored child or primary companion, to be pampered, allowed into bed, and mourned like a dying child at the end. These include the people who cook special meals for a pet, take it to exercise classes, to therapy — or leave it stock options in their will.

The third, called “protectionists,” strive to be the animal’s advocate. These owners have strong views about animal welfare, but their views on how a pet should be treated — whether it sleeps inside or outside, when it should be put down — vary depending on what they think is “best” for the animal. Its members include people who will “save” a dog tied to tree outside a store, usually delivering it home with a lecture about how to care for an animal...
Obviously a simplistic distinction, most of us are somewhere in the midst of this triangle. Things get sensitive, and even more interesting, when you line up these cultural attitudes alongside cultural attitudes towards cognitively and/or physically (relatively) "impaired" humans. I think we could plot a 100 year migration of euro-American cultural attitudes towards both dogs and "the disabled" across this triangle and see some similar trends.

Personally I'm somewhere between 'humanist' and 'protectionist'. I don't treat Kateva (the canine) like a human child -- her needs, wants and interests are not the same as most humans. Besides, she's middle-aged.

On the other hand, I don't consider her as "inferior" to me, though, like me, her needs fall below those of Emily and the kids. She and I are happy servants of the pack with occasional opportunities for personal fulfillment. We are working animals.

[1] I don't like "pet", but "companion animal" is way too long. I'd go with comrade.

No comments: