Imagine that you’re standing on the side of a highway and you suddenly notice a truck bearing down on your beloved dog and another person, who both happen to be crossing the road at the same time. You can only save one. Which do you choose, the human or the dog?
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the answer may depend upon who the person is. The article referred to a recent survey which found that 40% of respondents would save their dog over another person, if that person was unknown to them, such as a tourist. It’s an interesting statistic, and one that highlights the unique place pets have in American hearts. And this attachment to tame animals may be true of more than just the American population; when I was in Europe a couple of years ago, it seemed as though nearly everyone owned a little dog (I saw few large dogs).
Why are our pets are so important to us? Maybe it’s because they provide an endless source of unconditional love, comfort, and companionship. Even cats, with their reputation for aloof independence provide plenty of affection. Face it: they’re cute. But is that enough to explain why we allow them to lie on our furniture and sleep in our beds, or why we call our pets “children” and post pictures of them on Facebook?
I’ve even remarked that people, as represented in the media (an important caveat), seem to get more overtly upset over the abuse of an animal than that of a child. If that’s true, perhaps it’s because we see the abuse of children as tragic, but somehow unavoidable, an everyday event that is outside our control; we feel powerless to make a difference in the lives of abused or starving children (there are so many!), but a helpless animal, now that we feel we can do something about.
Perhaps it’s something else altogether. One thing’s for sure: our feelings for and about animals can be as complex as our feelings for and about people.
These seven journaling prompts (one for each day) explore this introspection-worthy topic.
- Consider the scenario presented at the beginning of this post. Be honest, and remember that no one else is going to read your answer. If you had a choice between your pet and a stranger, which would you save, and why?
- Complete the following: Pets are important/not important to me because…
- My first pet was _______________, and what I remember most about ___________ is…
- When I read stories about abused or neglected animals, I feel…
- When I read stories about abused or neglected children, I feel …
- Freewrite for ten minutes about your responses to the previous two prompts. Is there a contrast between the two? Which situation makes you angrier? Which engages you more? Which one, if either, makes you feel more powerful, in the sense of being able to effect changes?
- Write a paragraph or two, beginning with: I believe pets are…
I invite you to join the discussion. Do you have a pet? If so, how central is that animal to your family life? If not, what are your reasons for not having one?
Photo Credit: Kerri Lee Smith via Compfight cc