The old saying, “dog is a man’s best friend,” generally refers to a dog’s loyalty to its owner but the phrase can also correctly point out that of the entire animal kingdom, dog and man share the greatest understanding and a long and mutually beneficial relationship.
Even primates, our nearest animal relative in no way shares the same complex and enduring relationship as man and dog.
In spite of my antipathy to cats, I am willing to accept that people can develop a rapport and closeness with most domestic animals including working animals such as horses.
But man’s best friend has surpassed all other animals by an extremely long margin, in having established its role within the family where in many cases a dog is given every consideration short of having a place at the table.
We also attribute extensive personality traits to dogs but it is difficult to know to what degree a dog’s personality is its own and how much those with whom the animal lives project that personality onto the animal.
I have always been fond of dogs but was quite cynical when people expressed excessive attachment to their pets or experienced the doldrums when a pet died. I saw such behavior as indulgent and far too precious for my tastes.
It was not until we got a dog and development an attachment to the animal that I began to realize the bond that exists between people and their dogs and that loyalty is a two-way street.
Approximately four years ago, we acquired a pup that quickly grew into a dog that claimed an indispensible place in the household.
Unfortunately, however, due to one of the kids having extreme respiratory problems, the doctor informed us that dog dander exacerbates her condition and the moment of reckoning came when the doctor said that we must get rid of the dog to protect the child’s health.
Being an adult, I can reason and be philosophical about having to part with the dog, but children, including the child whose health is affected by the dog, are completely un-accepting of getting rid of their pet.
It is definitely a crisis for the kids but there is no choice, no alternative or half measures: the child’s health comes first so the dog must go.
Dogs do exhibit loyalty and trust, so getting rid of a family dog for reasons outside one’s control still feels like an act of disloyalty, a harsh sentence to impose on an innocent animal.
Having to get rid of a family pet is a very difficult and sad dilemma to have to face.
Still, it also illustrates that pets are animals and in no way share the same stature as a child.
While I now understand people’s closeness to the family dog, I still have no patience with those who claim their pets are like “our children.”
Dogs along with other pets are important to people but they should never occupy the same honored place, even euphemistically, that children occupy.