I heard an interesting story on NPR this morning that suggested that one of the reasons we Americans are so in love with our pets is that we no longer have a strong sense of community.
There could be some truth in this. Loving and respecting animals is always a wonderful thing. And I feel that many cultures have a history of relating to animals in this way – at least on some level. But there is something new about the phenomenon of carrying around tiny dogs in purses and dressing them up in frilly outfits. Some of us anthropomorphize our pets in a way that we didn’t in the past – and in a way that fails to actually respect the animals for what they are.
And it is precisely this anthropomorphizing that suggests that maybe we are trying to replace human connections with relationships with animals. It is true that, for many reasons, we are not as connected with our local communities as we used to be. We work long hours and live far away from our friends and families. I love my basset hound and the cats and dogs I’ve had in the past. I know my life would be emptier without them. But we should respect our pets for what they are – cats and dogs – not creatures put on the earth to fill our emotional voids. What is more, we must look at the cause – our lack of connection with one another – and address it as the serious issue it is.