I return from my travels to find my homeland overcast and midway through party conference season: two phenomena I’d happily forgotten had even existed. I have never more fervently wished that I were still on holiday. This is in spite of Dalyan’s teeming population of stray dogs, all ready to drink pool water, chase cars and shit in the street.
I don’t like dogs. Or, actually, that’s not true. I like some dogs. I like cat-like dogs, you know? The ones that don’t bark and run around in circles like overly-contented morons. I think my disdain for this creature deserves a more thorough exploration, but first, a proviso: I’m not talking about wild dogs, who we can all agree are amazing. Wolves, jackals, coyotes and foxes are among the most excellent of all creatures. They are predators, known for their cunning and intelligence.
Dogs, by contrast, are known for their bumbling stupidity and lack of personal hygiene. Obedience is a necessary, desirable quality in a dog – actually, that’s an understatement, since they are entirely dependent on humans. If human beings were to die out tomorrow, there would be a brief plague of dogs, as they glutted themselves on our abandoned offal; but that would be the final spasm of a doomed species. Dogs would be fucked along with every other pet.
So dogs must be pets, if they are to be anything at all. But it seems to me that the cat is more generally suited to pethood than the dog: a cat’s claws retract, a cat buries its shit, and the cat word for ‘hello’ is not the most annoying sound ever. Admittedly, cats bury their shit for political cat-reasons, rather than through any inclination toward hygiene. But why should that matter?
I could go on, if I were so inclined; but that would be a waste of time, as this much is not disputed. We all agree that dogs are dumb and obnoxious and ugly. If you call someone a ‘dog’, you are implying that they possess these qualities. If that someone is a woman, then even more so. If a man’s hair turns grey, you call him a ‘grey fox’. If you were to call him ‘grey dog’, it would imply something entirely different.
We see this also reflected in the world of fiction. When a writer wishes to make a character appear to be badass, they name it after a particular sort of wild dog: The Jackal, Sniper Wolf, Fox Mulder etc. I doubt Charles de Gaulle would have had much to fear from an assassin named ‘The Golden Retriever’ or even ‘The Dog’.
Cats, by contrast, are known for their cunning and style. If someone wants to name their badass character after a cat, it is sufficient to simply call name it after a cat. Like Catwoman, or The Cat from Red Dwarf. Except that episode where they go to a parallel universe or something, and The Cat is The Dog, who has no style and stinks of shit.
While writing all this, intending it to be quite light-hearted – as I almost always do – I found myself frowning. There is a Big Question here. Sorry guys. But isn’t having pets just a bit creepy? I’m talking about animal domestication in general, really: the uniquely human practice of manipulating a formerly wild animal into complete subservience.
At least in farming I can see a clear purpose to it all. Are we going to eat all these dogs and cats? No. I suppose at one point the dog was used to help hunt and kill other animals that we might wish to eat, but not so much now. All the writing about pets concern practical advice about how to keep them, but no-one really ever seems to ask why we should. We just have for a long, long time.
I can’t help but notice parallels with the human slave trade. If it’s wrong to enslave humans, then isn’t it wrong to enslave animals? But I suppose a subservient existence is all a pet is equipped for, and they have no awareness of their plight, rather, they seem quite contented with it, so does that make it not slavery? But, as I’ve already discussed, if we were to release these animals, they would die; so I suppose that means that they are forever doomed to slavery.
The process by which modern pets came into being is also very problematic. Pet-breeders want to create better pets, much like eugenicists and Nazi witchdoctors wished to create better humans. Of course, what constitutes ‘better’ is now largely determined by what constitutes ‘cute’. God, I’m glad my ancestry wasn’t predetermined by the taste of some other life-form.
The more I think about it, the more disturbed I get. The problem is particularly heinous when it comes to pedigree breeds. What if an alien race were to land, and decide to keep us prisoner and force us to have sex with our close relatives and other people we don’t want to have sex with, until our descendants had all the qualities that the aliens found appealing, like webbed toes, giant hands supported by tiny weedy arms, and eye sockets too big for our eyes, or whatever. How fucking not cool would that be?
What a vacuous, terrible existence these animals must lead! Can you imagine what it might be like to be a dog? The once-proud, upright ears of your ancestors flopping over, your once-sharp mind turned to wet cake. Some part of you is built to chase rabbits, and to hunt, but all you chase is balls. And sticks. And Frisbees. It is amusing, but only in the sense that the audience of The Jeremy Kyle Show might find The Jeremy Kyle Show amusing.
It would be easier if your stubby little legs could only support your weight. It would be easier if breathing weren’t such a struggle. Years of inbreeding have made your jaw too bulbous and deformed to help but slobber all over yourself. You are too placid to do anything but bumble from meal to meal, from shit to shit, pausing momentarily to give your master a look that they think is love. But it’s not.
Eugh. Right, that’s enough of that rambling now.
Until next week.
PS. None of this means I’m going to stop owning pets and whatever. I still eat meat, so, y’know.