What’s wrong with me?

You may know that I have a dog. Ronan the Scottish Terror. And if you’re a dog person, you may understand me when I say that I love the dog more than I do a vast majority of people in the world.

No, I mean it – if a house was on fire and Ronan was inside with people I know, how many of them would I run in to save before I would the dog? When I look inside myself, I’m troubled by the fact that the answer is “not that many.” It’s good to love animals, but there should theoretically be a line in there that says that all humans rank ahead of all animals, right?

I’m thinking of all this lately because:

  • on last week’s season finale of Grey’s Anatomy they put a dog to sleep; he was in bad shape and it had to be done, but the whole scene really affected me;
  • the next day, a co-worker comes in an I learn that she and her husband are going to have to put down the cat he’s had for 17 years;
  • on Saturday, Preakness favorite Barbaro pulled up with a broken leg, something that with a horse can be life-threatening; I couldn’t make myself watch the video on SportsCenter. (The pic here is an “after” x-ray from his surgery.)

All these things, with animals in pain and their lives in danger (one close reality, one mediated fiction, and the third a reality brought into my home via the media) and I realize it’s affecting me personally in ways that not many human injuries or deaths affect me.

I suspect this says something about how I’m relating to the human race of late, and I don’t think it’s something good, either. I try to believe that it’s positive, that it really suggests how I feel this responsibility for things that can’t take care of themselves. I like to think it means I’d be right with Mercer (a ref that you’re going to have to read Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to grok), that I have an abundance of the uniquely human quality of empathy. But what I want to think and what I ought to think might be different, you know?

I also wonder if it’s just me, and if not, what does that mean? I’ll continue to ponder, I guess, and in the meantime maybe writing it down and sending it out in the world will help me a step or two closer to some answers.



23 thoughts on “What’s wrong with me?

  1. By no means am I an authority on this, but I really think spirituality plays a large role in human-animal relations. I think that certain belief structures promote what you sre talking about. As I said, I’m no expert.
    I am also feeling the same way toward humanity, if it makes you feel better, Your not completely alone

  2. It’s not just you
    Although very personal, I think this is something that affects a lot of people. I don’t think it’s just the pet itself, but what the pet represents.
    I think a lot of it has to do with love, trust and acceptance. An animal, or more specifically a pet, represents unconditional love. If you love them, they will love you back. If you are in a bad mood, they still love you. If you do something wrong, they still love you. If you gain 80 pounds, they still love you. If someone else comes into the room and you call your pet, they come to you. It doesn’t matter what you do, in that relationship, your pet will always accept you, will always come back to you, and will always look at you with unconditional love.
    Can you really find that with another person? Someone who will love you forever and always, who will accept you 100% for who you are, someone who will trust you implicitly and have confidence in your abilities. Someone who will look only to you for its needs? I think we all would like to think so, but then reality rears its ugly head and I have trouble imagining anything close…

  3. I tend to feel the exact same way. For me, I think it’s just the innocence of animals (I struggle with it in children too). But I tend to always have much more of an affect over a hurt animal than a hurt person.

  4. Yeah, Nicole and I are the same way with our ‘kids’. If anything I think it’s arrogant anthrocentrism to be any other way. So some DNA keeps that short, furry kid from talking. Does that make him a less worthy friend? Their unconditional love should be viewed as quality of character, not a sign of diminished intelligence.
    And I apologize again for Thursday.

  5. Re: It’s not just you
    While I think this is true, I although think it raises some questions about our relationship with the social. Obligations to the community and so forth. If I crawl over the still-breathing body of a neighbor to save my dog and the neighbor is dead before I get back, have I committed a crime? If not, should it be a crime?
    Damned ethical codes….

  6. I’m right there with you.
    I think a great deal about how to get the kitties out safely in case of fire. Kitties, then PC, then whatever I can. Everyone else for themselves.
    I am a confirmed misanthrope and it just keeps getting worse each year as I grow more jaded, cynical, and full of hate and contempt.
    But then…
    Last night $boy made me watch Extreme House Makeover or some such bullcrap. DAMN HIM. The woman was caring for 9 at-risk and challenged kids on a
    Vet’s pension when her home burned down. The crew went in with 2 building companies and built her a 5k+ sq ft house with an elevator, 2 of everything, and a great deal of love. They then collected 600K (iirc) to help her pay utilities, taxes, etc. As if that weren’t enough, they then renovated the local park which had seen better days. She personally wrote over 100 thank you cards – every crew member got one.
    I cried through the whole thing. Here was this woman who was doing this amazing thing, and then hundreds of people donated their own time, skills, and money to help her out when she hit upon hard times.
    Just when I was very comfy in my sneering contempt for the assholes of the world, there was this show.
    It knocked me for a loop. big time. Why? Is that level of care and love so rare these days? Or is it me, not seeing it around me?
    But I always cry during “Emergency Vets” and refuse to see March of the Penguins.
    Maybe it’s just because animals haven’t done anything to make us hate them. They just are. The domesticated ones go out of their way to try to please us. The rest just do their thing. They don’t start wars or lie. They aren’t corrupt or full of hate for no reason. They just shed on your favorite dry-clean-only dress, and then make up for it by snuggling with you when you don’t feel well.

  7. I hate that broken legs for horses are always considered life-threatening. In the movie “Dreamer,” based upon a true story, the horse is nearly put down when she broke her leg, but the trainer took her home and made her all better. She recovered completely and won the Breeder’s Cup!
    Unfortunately, horses in the racing business are treated as disposable commodities, not the beautiful animals they are.
    I love my cats more than most people. In fact, I would rather spend time with my cats than most people. I would save my cats before another person in a fire. It’d be human family members first then cats then anyone else I had time to save. There’s no shame in that.
    The way we feel about non-human animals all has to do with the values we were raised with. The theoretical line that says humans are more important than other species is simply theoretical. It doesn’t mean it’s correct or it’s true. As a society, we are raised to believe that humans are superior and that human lives should always come ahead of non-human lives. If one starts to wonder why humans are considered more important than other animals, one may start feeling conflicted and as though this feeling is wrong.

  8. Ah, I missed that, so I’m glad to hear what they did for that woman.
    I think that as a society, we realize that we are generally getting more cynical, more standoffish, more and more withdrawns into our own little bubbles of awareness, and pets represent the opposite of that: their emotions are transparent, they’re happy and loving so long as they have food, shelter, and somebody taking them out or proving them a place to do their duty. Animals are our daily dose of what we’d like to see more of in the world – trust, love – but which has been beat out of us by society. 🙂
    I go to movies and out to eat by myself more than I ought. It’s not because I don’t have friends, or don’t want to hang out with them, but because for so many years, I was working 2-3 jobs and what precious little spare time I had was at very erratic hours. I got used to doing things by myself, and it just became a habit. Even now, I have to remember to pick up the phone or send an email and say “Hey, I’m off to ___, wanna come?” And since the majority of my friends are married, and live far outside the city, I have made a concious effort to widen my social horizons, ie. taking an improv class.
    I admit to loving my cat more than some people I know. And in some ways, I think she’s more human than some humans I know. But to be fair, I think a human, unless they were unconcious or otherwise senseless, would be making an effort to get out of a burning building. An animal tends to retreat in fear, and would likely be under the bed or in the closet.

  9. May we disagree with your premise that the way you feel about animals and the way you feel about people are somehow related? You are right in that the way you feel about critters like us is a positive. But we think the way you feel about people these days is a separate matter entirely.
    Your pals in Dismal Valley,
    Alex, Zsa-Zsa, Lola, Gypsy and Sapphire,
    and the bald guy who feeds them

  10. I think this comes from your assumption that animals are somehow pure and blameless and ‘all dogs go to heaven.’ I hear this attitude a lot. But how many animals show even the most basic kinds of empathy or charity we take for granted among humans? How many animals stop to think about how their actions affect others? How many animals act totally selfishly and don’t even think about others?
    Humans are just another animal, yes, but they’re not automatically individually morally inferior or less deserving of life just because they’re smarter than the others and are currently outcompeting them.

  11. Bullshit. Animals are TOTALLY corrupt. IE, they’re completely self-centered, only care about whether they get enough food or sex, and will act completely in accordance with their instincts without thinking. Humans are the only species who even have a concept of ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ and at least *try* to act accordingly, at least *pretend* that others matter.
    Animals do what they want, when they want, and we excuse them for it because they don’t ‘know any better.’ If your dog or cat kills a ‘prey animal,’ you excuse it because it’s instinctual. When a human acts instinctively, without considering others, it’s rape or murder or robbery.
    Humans have more sophisticated moral codes than animals, and do not deserve to be treated as inferior or less deserving of life than animals. We’re animals too. OK?

  12. Re: It’s not just you
    Yeah, it should be a crime, or at least require counseling. If you’re so daft that you deliberately allow – or cause – a human to die so that an animal may live, you’re a danger to other humans.

  13. Re: It’s not just you
    Sounds like you’re talking about dogs. Cats don’t really seem to ‘love’ owners, at least not as far as I’ve seen. They like the food they’re given and the good feeling of having their fur petted, but don’t really seem to care about the feelings or distress of their humans unless it affects their feeding schedule.
    As to ‘love’… human love is more nuanced and more difficult to obtain than animal love. Animals won’t judge you for your flaws because they don’t have as complex a code of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as we do.
    To love an animal as much as a human isn’t ‘wrong,’ but you’re missing something if you’re never allowing yourself to be loved by an intellectual and physical equal. It’s easy to get the love of a pet; not that it’s not worth having, but I think one needs more…

  14. Finally, maybe I’m just being Devil’s Advocate here, but if you have less empathy for humans than animals, I’d point the finger squarely at the influence of the media; you see images and video of humans in distress and suffering every day. However, you rarely see images of animals suffering – even in movies you get a disclaimer telling you that no animals were harmed. Hence, it strikes you as rarer and somehow more disturbing; you haven’t been desensitized to it.
    Remind me never to get trapped in a burning building with you and your dog… 😉

  15. You’re reaction to the show (which I saw, as well) was a valid reaction to seeing generous, selfless people doing great and wonderful things for a woman who has certainly gone far beyond the call of duty in her lifetime. (we’ll set aside the fact that the network makes a kazillion billion dollars pulling on our heartstrings)
    However, that doesn’t minimize the fact that there are indeed, still assholes in the world who deserve your sneering contempt.
    I think part of the problem for the cynical-natured person is that the media presents us with WAY TOO MUCH fodder for those feelings of contempt and not enough of the real-deal good stuff that goes on quietly in the background of our everyday lives.

  16. Well, I’m struggling with the notion that this is being interpreted to mean you value all animal life over all human life. I don’t think that’s what you’re saying, is it?
    Obviously, we all know way more humans than animals, so the chances of dealing with humans who are fucktards MUST be much higher than the chances of meeting a hateful dog. I’m not a statistical genius, but I’m thinking that’s a safe statement.
    I just don’t see the need to compare how you feel about an animal that’s a member of your family with how you feel towards casual human acquaintances.
    If my own child were in a room with another child and there was a fire, my instinct would be to save both. But if I had to pick one…..jeez, I hate these kinds of questions!
    See? Remove the animal, and the same conundrum occurs. I think you’re pondering something about yourself that needn’t really be pondered. Except maybe you’d like a few more people in your life that you care about as much as you care about your dog. Maybe not.

  17. Well, I’m struggling with the notion that this is being interpreted to mean you value all animal life over all human life. I don’t think that’s what you’re saying, is it?

    No. Put it this way:
    *House on fire, my dog inside. I’d save my dog before I would most people.
    *House on fire, some other dog inside. I’d probably save the dog before I would some people.
    *House on fire, no dog inside. There are a few people where I’d look around to see if there was gasoline I could throw on the fire.

    See? Remove the animal, and the same conundrum occurs. I think you’re pondering something about yourself that needn’t really be pondered. Except maybe you’d like a few more people in your life that you care about as much as you care about your dog. Maybe not.

    Maybe that’s a good way of looking at it.

  18. Re: It’s not just you

    Sounds like you’re talking about dogs. Cats don’t really seem to ‘love’ owners, at least not as far as I’ve seen. They like the food they’re given and the good feeling of having their fur petted, but don’t really seem to care about the feelings or distress of their humans unless it affects their feeding schedule.

    We have 3 cats. When one of their humans is sick or emotionally wrecked, the cats will come over … outside of feeding time, too … and cuddle. We have a saying at our house: “The kitties Always Know.”

  19. Maybe that’s a good way of looking at it.
    I think so! ; ^ )
    I’m a nurse and deal with human suffering & strife. Yet I could not do it with animals.Oh, I’ve done what I must for my own but it cuts my heart in a way that it *doesn’t* with humans. (My dog & 4 cats are my babies)
    I truly think that the value placed on life is too subjective
    to be simplified as human vs. animal. Hell, with the burning building scenario alone, it might depend what MOOD I’m in at that moment–though I’d always opt to save my pets, my spouse/kid/mom would come first. All others? No telling ahead of time.
    I couldn’t watch the horse video either.

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