Dogs are angels with paws.
– bumper sticker
What’s up with this pet thing? Ladies dressing up their small dogs or hugging and kissing the cat, in short exhibiting behaviors that are appropriate toward small children and husbands, is this charming or pathetic?
Historic process of domesticating animals served two main purposes. Cattle and poultry were a portable source of fat and protein that was busy fattening itself in time for a family feast, and delivering milk or eggs meanwhile. And there were service animals, beasts of burden and dogs kept for a hunt or to guard the settlement.
In case you thought that the word ‘pet’ refers to gentle stroking or caressing, that’s rather modern usage. It actually derives from petty, meaning small, from Old French petit. In 16th century the word referred to young children and eventually to small animals.
Sure, people anthropomorphize everything and create totems. We find solace and comfort in our pets, a substitute for human companionship and an object of responsibility and affection that can be owned. Often a pet and its owner seem to look alike and you wonder who picked who. A family would have several dogs – his and hers?
I had a number of pets over the years, a parakeet and fish, a turtle that ran away and a rabbit that would not, three cats and a dog. But my favorite was an owl that I rescued, fed for a months, and set free. It was a thing of beauty, amazing eyes and a beak of a bird of prey. Come to think of it, it was no pet but a wild creature that I kept for a time.
Some people mourn death of a pet as much as that of a family member. Still, this name of a pets cremation outfit bothered me – Friends Forever.