Our furry friends

This post is a response to the article here regarding fox hunting 

I’m not sure how it happened but without my noticing, and certainly without intent, I’ve acquired a reputation for not liking dogs. Now to like something, according to the literal definition is:-

To regard with favour; have a kindly or friendly feeling for (a person, group, etc.); find attractive.

By these criteria, I’d have to say, there are some dogs that I don’t like. But by the same criteria there are some people I don’t like. So why, when dogs and I cross paths and fail to hit it off, is it assumed that I don’t like dogs? I may not like this dog but it doesn’t follow that I’m a bigoted doggist. Not liking one person doesn’t mean you don’t like anyone.

It’s a strange thing though. You seldom encounter a dog owner who’d suggest that their pooch is anything other than a good pooch. There you are in, the hall, being growled at and they’re smiling and saying “Scruff won’t hurt you, will you Scruff?” and your thinking “You don’t have to inflict actual, physical harm to make someone feel unwelcome.” and you’re saying “There’s a good boy…..”

It would be difficult to argue that the evolutionary branch of life on Earth which culminates in Homo Sapiens hasn’t cast deep shade over the rest of our planetary fauna. Indicative of this overshadowing is that most species which exhibit similar numerical success are classified as vermin unless they’re edible livestock or pets. There are numerous exploitative, parasitic and predatory relationships between species but we are unique in that we are universally exploitative. If it lives it can be exploited. Yes, even the dog. Unquestioning loyalty is not something we demand of each other unless the relationship is dysfunctional or martial.

So it’s easy to see humanity as a threat to life. Viewed from outside this would be an understandable conclusion. You could describe the Earth as being infested with humans rather than populated by them. Either way, in geophysical terms, our time here has been short and may pass very soon. We have already had enough of an impact to be allocated our own geological period, the Anthropocene, and it’s perfectly conceivable that our duration could only amount to a narrow layer in a sedimentary rock yet to solidify.

Life is indeed red in tooth and claw but by no means all natural interactions are competitive. Symbiosis is where we should look for a sustainable relationship with the planet. If we are to be around for longer than it takes to lay down one dirty line in the sediment then our presence within the biosphere has to be mutually beneficial for us and our companion species. So where does this leave dogs?

Well, dog lovers can rest easy. Our best friends will survive with us or without us. There’ would undoubtedly be a shake out of the breeds. You only have to look at feral dogs to to appreciate how nature soon selects for the optimum, for cunning and adaptability. But it also selects for co-operation which is why Scruffs big sad eyes and his willingness to fetch the slippers have done him no harm.

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