Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bizarre Trends in Pet-Keeping

In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, the stern physician Dr Juvenal Urbino justified his hatred of animals with some very amusing theories; dogs were not loyal but servile, cats were opportunists and traitors, peacocks were heralds of death, monkeys carried the fever of lust, and the people who loved their pets in excess were capable of the worst cruelties toward human beings. Despite having been the philosophical pretexts for baseless cynicism, Urbino’s ideas certainly nudge our attention to whether human beings may have misinterpreted, or at least exaggerated, their relationships with animals. I admit that at times I myself am guilty of over-anthropomorphising my beloved house pets, but how can one not? Pablo Neruda dedicated a devastatingly moving poem to his dog, lamenting the following verse at the time of its death:

My dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he'd keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Aldous Huxley reasoned that “to his dog, every man is Napoleon, hence the constant popularity of dogs.” There is little surprise then that modern research is beginning to scrutinise the negative repercussions of our supposedly “unhealthy” attachment to our pets.

The bond between man and animal is almost taken for granted these days, with an estimated ownership of 63% of Australian households. Human-animal relationships are known to grant security to the anxious, companionship to the lonely, and recently, status symbols to the image obsessed. However some believe that human beings are beginning to substitute their pets for human companionship, crossing the line between respecting the natural bond between man and beast, and enabling a distorted set of attitudes and expectations. People dress their pets in fancy outfits. Some pets are treated to gourmet meals and perfume. Billionaire Leona Helmsley left her dog, Trouble, $12 million after she died, and left two of her grandchildren nothing.

Personally, the most fascinating trend I’ve heard of is cosmetic surgery for pets. Owners now have the option of paying money to rid their unsightly pooches of pug noses, droopy eyes, and several other typical “doggy features.” Even more absurd, there is now a patented testicular implant that sells for close to one thousand dollars a pair to restore the way your pet looked before being neutered. The irony is that while some owners declare an unconditional love and respect for their animals, they are attempting to manipulate their pets’ characteristics to make them more human-like.


  1. I think from your tone you agree with me when I say this is exploitation of animals of the very worst kind. Have a pet and provide for its needs but to the best of your ability allow it to keep its essence. I find it obscene that people spend this kind of money on this when children die of hunger. Thank you for a stimulating start to my day yet again.

  2. I loathe human expectations. I feel sorry for anything that suffers because of someone's sick and sad desire to be perfect. Expectations + Perfection = FAIL.

    Back on topic. If we are doing this to animals now then what are we going to be doing to who-knows-what in the coming years? I hope I'm not around when that happens.

  3. This reminds me of the stories I see on Aminal Planet about people who keep exotic pets in their houses and sometimes are hurt or killed by them because they try to humanize the pets, such as a tiger or a monkey.

  4. I'm disturbed by the idea of people doing plastic surgery on their pets. That's so wrong. That's got to be abuse in some way, doesn't it?

    I've never had a pet and while I don't mind anyone who does, I've always been somewhat uncomfortable how some people turn to animals for love when they should be turning to the people around them. One of my friends said to me once that I didn't know the love I could get from a dog and I said I was glad because I'm sure I didn't deserve it. Otherwise the people around me would show more love.


  5. Seriously? Cosmetic surgery for pets??? That's crazy. I cringe at having to have $50 to have my dog shaved every few months!! :)

  6. I've never really understood the appeal of pets. We did have 2 cats for quite a few years and I did love them, but they were cats, and not human beings.

    The idea of cosmetic surgery on animals is awful and a sad reflection on our society today.

  7. Cosmetic surgery for pets is simply barbaric.
    Love them, pamper them, but don't harm them.

  8. Wow, this is nuts. If you don't like the look of your dog's pug nose, why did you get a pug in the first place?

    Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  9. There is something irresistable about a pet that has an imperfection, like a 3 legged dog although I'm not too sure about the sets of wheels that some owners invest in to help their pet's mobility.

  10. Hi, very interesting post.
    There is a saying, "if you want a friend, get a dog".
    Have a nice day and keep a song in your heart, Lee.

  11. I like your point about how easy it is to over-anthropormophosize our pets. That's a beautiful poem, too. I read "Love in the Time of Cholera" in high school, but I don't remember the animals you mentioned. Thanks for "Following" my blog! It lead me to your insightful work, as a bonus. How did you find my blog?