Musings: Animal Love

I have never really paused to think about how he influences our daily and cumulative lives. I grumble when he is loud and unruly, when he does not listen or add up to my pre-established expectations. I resent his presence in those moments of disgust and frustration. I harken back in nostalgia to the days when all of him was an integral aspect of our family love and when I know I did right by him. Not now when I can’t find the time to be close to him, to nurture or respond to even his simplest requests. He was pushed down the rungs of priority once “they” arrived. His friends, his competition and yet he is too proud, loving and loyal to see it the latter way.

They call him “man’s best friend” and he is unfailingly loyal to each of us. Gentle around the children, loving in those quiet dark moments when I can be found finally relaxing, even hanging my head in some kind of sadness. When I was pregnant for the first time, he trailed me like a shadow, loving every proximity to me, standing guard when I was still. Once when I cried racking sobs of frustration over something small that occurred, he put his hind legs on the couch to be near me and rested his chin in my lap. Recalling this moment even now, almost 5 years later, I am astounded by his perception. Our family dog.

I am reading Sara Gruen’s Ape House a story about (wo)man’s interaction with our closest ancestors, apes. It has me contemplating this connection between human and other animal and what animals, domestic or wild, mean to us in our everyday lives. Admittedly, I hate to take my children to zoos and aquariums. I recognize the educational value of exposing them to different species of animal they otherwise would not encounter, and yet my heart drops when I see those animals enclosed living a life that is so unnatural to them.

Ape House is an intriguing book about this (wo)man-ape connection and the heartwrenching choices “civilization” makes that exploit and harm animals. There is so much material here that can lead us to contemplate the ethics of our lives – from the food we choose to eat, the products we buy (that may or may not have been in contact with questionable scientific research) the way we treat our domesticated animals and the choices we make for how to teach our children about wild animals. There are no easy solutions or answers here – when human advancement has sometimes been predicated on this subjugation – and maybe this book simplifies the discussion a little too much. We can only do our best in contemplating ethical choices.

For now, for my part, I will make sure my best friend (who is a bit under the weather as I write this) remains happy and content. I will try (harder) to squeeze in that evening walk. I will continue to ask myself important questions about living, ethically.

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