First, i want to apologize for being late posting this. This week has been a difficult one for our family, as my daughter’s 18 year old cat has been going downhill, her kidneys shutting down, and dementia, arthritis, and had gone blind. I have spent much of my time with our animals and away from the computer. Just this afternoon, we had to say goodbye to my sweet grandkitty, Callie.
It reminded me of some research I did on animals. History shows us there is a difference between value and cost. To some people, animals are for a specific reason, working to benefit humans rather than being pets to bring us comfort. The work given in exchange for food and care is the cost. The comfort and love you receive is the value. Looking back at the 1800’s, we see it being most common to only keep animals that could be of use. Hunting dogs, water dogs, rat chasing dogs, herding dogs. Cats were mainly to catch rodents keeping them out of grain and feed for the livestock. And by getting rid of rodents, it helped keep diseases from spreading as rapidly.
Today, we are reversed on the view of animals. Most animals in the 21st century are pets rather than working dogs. But for those animals who work, we have a large scale of what they do for us. We have dogs trained for tracking and detection for law enforcement, military, and fire departments. We have dogs that detect when someone is going to have a seizure or having a heart attack, assists the blind and deaf, mobility assistance or emotional support for people with autism or PTSD. We do not give them enough credit for all they do for us.
I remember reading the book The Thornbirds, and there was a section where they spoke of animals and how their value determined how people treated the animals.
They spoke about how people in the city who had dogs, had them as pets, where dogs on a farm or a ranch were expected to work, and rarely were allowed in the home with the family, pampered. One of the things it stated was (being in Australia, kangaroos seen in the cities were in zoos, protected. In some areas of the countryside, kangaroos are considered on the same level as rodents. They were plentiful and disruptive to crops and fencing. When I was in Australia, it was strange to see the souvenirs made from kangaroos (including paws for back scratchers and coin purses made from male kangaroo balls). And they represented thousands of kangaroos that had been killed because they were considered a pest.
During the 1800’s, owning a dog was not done by everyday common folk. The cost of feeding an animal that was only a pet was only for the rich. Look at Mansfield Park. Lady Bertram’s pug was almost like an accessory, like a fan or a necklace. The dog had any other purpose but to be with Mrs Bertram. Most of the stories you read depicting the time, the cats were usually found on the barn or the food areas of the homes.
Look at Pride and Prejudice. Mr Bennet’s carriage horses were used on the farms when not needed for the carriage. It was expensive to have extra animals, and if they weren’t working, earning their keep, they were a luxury for the wealthy. Darcy, being wealthy, could afford to keep a horse to go riding, as well as horses for carriages.
Most of my life, there have been pets in our home. Almost always a dog, and off and on, cats. Only when I got Darcy have I had an animal that works. It amazes me how intelligent animals can be.
To be honest, I am glad times have changed. Having animals (And we have had dogs, cats, turtle, bunnies, chickens) has made my life richer. Even though losing them is painful, I can’t imagine not having them in my life and in my home. So which is more important to You? Is the value of the joy and love that can cone from having a pet more important, or is it the work they can do for what they cost?