You Are A Terrible Person Because You Own A Dog

Puppies Hanging on a Clothesline

Chances are, if you own a dog, you have these notions in your head about how you love your pet or how it’s part of your family.  You think of your dog as your companion.  What you have to understand is that the reason you think this is that you are an awful human being.  A total and complete monster.  You are not completely ignorant of this fact, you just happen to be engaged in a gigantic game of pretend with the entirety of our culture.  I’m not going to tell you not to feel bad about it either.  You are guilty of a miserable, disgraceful thing and it’s about time that people start telling you the truth, instead of letting you dance around in that little bubble that you refer to as reality.

This strange dog fantasy you are experiencing has been nurtured by the fact that our culture tends to hide its greatest cruelties under a veneer of nostalgia and manufactured love.  You turn on the television and there’s another dog bouncing around with respect and great reverence for its master.  You look on a Hallmark card and there’s another stupid looking dog performing some humiliating show for your entertainment.  Getting its nose caught in a cookie jar or cuddling with a kitten or accidentally tracking mud on the new carpet with an “aw shucks” type dog grin.  AWWWW…look at that, the dog surrendered its dignity again.  Don’t you just love when it demeans itself?  Isn’t that cute?

Maybe you think back to when you were young and that special animal filled you with the warm feeling of home or family or some other absurd illusion.  And maybe, just maybe, the dog really did love you, too.  But I doubt it.  Look at it from the dog’s point of view.  Its entire way of life has been annihilated.  It has no freedom.  No self-determination.  We’ve bred all of the characteristics and will out of it and turned it into a hollow shell into which we project memories and myth.  You are its ticket to survival.  Better put on a hell of a show.

To the loving owner, the dog is moving, highly symbolic furniture.  They are a showpiece meant to express unspoken facets of the person’s identity.  Kind of like a table.  In truth, it is nothing more than sick product of an insane society that revels in debasing anything that cannot speak for itself.   If dogs truly understood their lot, they would bite every human they came in contact with.  Of course, if they did that, they’d be exterminated immediately.  No opposition to our hegemonic pet fantasy can be tolerated!

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that indicated that you should neuter your dog so that you don’t have to euthanize a bunch of other dogs in the future.  A big, goofy Labrador sat on the person’s front seat.  That person probably thinks of themselves as a kind, loving pet owner.  I imagine they have conned themselves into thinking that these two actions are the only possibilities.  But, can we seriously consider anyone compassionate who thinks that castration or genocide are the only two conceivable actions when discussing a living creature?

Whether you treat your dog well is beside the point.  Maybe you let him run around outside and give him treats all the time.  Maybe you scratch her belly and heap upon her massive amounts of affection.  Maybe you take care of him when he is sick.  None of this matters.  The autonomy of a living thing is all that means anything.  It has been systematically stripped of that through decades upon decades of love and adoration.  We have killed its spirit with kindness.  You may love it, but it has never been given the honest choice to love you back.  It cannot leave or dislike you without existential peril.  It is not your pet; it is your captive.

Dogs are the ultimate nightmare scenario.  Life without choice.  Life without will.  Being paraded on a leash.  Being entirely controlled and objectified.  Broken, not just as an individual animal, but also as a species.  Our victory over dogs is so complete that they have become our culture’s mascot. Children laugh and pull on their tail.  We dress it up in sweaters and cute little outfits to impress other people.  We go so far as to delude ourselves into thinking that they are our “best friends”.  But, they are not.  Friendship requires mutual consent from both friends.  The dog has never been given the option to consent.  It has been given its place and it will stay there.

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  1. #1 by Mirkin Firkin on December 1, 2013 - 4:40 PM

    There is a solution to the future canine overpopulation of which you speak. From what I hear, this place can serve anything to anyone:

    ps. Evidently, you are a sick cat lover.

    • #2 by Keith Spillett on December 1, 2013 - 6:02 PM

      I liked the part on Alf where the alien used to eat cats. That’s as close as I come to liking them.

  2. #3 by Jim Wheeler on December 1, 2013 - 5:48 PM

    Very interesting doggy post, Keith. Allow me to disagree, mostly.

    I think what you have done here is make the mirror image of the mistake you note for the majority, that of anthropomorphizing pets. I too decry those who want to put clothes on dogs or otherwise ignore their animal nature, and that includes the absurd hair treatments one sees at dog shows. Also, I think it rather mean to breed dogs for bizarre physical traits, as is done with dachshunds, pekinese, bulldogs and the like. I read somewhere a geneticist’s opinion that if all dogs were returned to the wild, those that survived would revert to a natural type within only a few generations. They would resemble mutts. If you want a crusade to embrace, that is the one I recommend. (Lotsa luck with that.)

    However, I can’t agree that it would be kind or even proper to return dogs to the wild. According to a Scientific American article, dogs have been evolving in virtual symbiosis with human beings for many tens of thousands of years. They started as wolves, which of course remain and are incompatible as pets. But dogs are descended from some wolves who happened to have an affinity with man and now they are stuck with us, and we with them. Life in the wild for any animal, as any zoologist will attest, is short and brutal compared with life with a humane pet owner. Pardon my pun, but it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, competing for food and suffering injuries, diseases and parasites.

    Regardless of how we have mis-bred them, all dogs have evolved to share an innate need to socialize with people, a significant modification of that animal nature. Our little Yorkshire terrier, Winston, is great at that. Not only is he a fine companion, but he is even-tempered and tolerant. He finds amusement in simple things and obvious joy in just being with us. Dogs are different from people. They do not have self-awareness. They do not fear death, nor do they hold grudges, nor are they ambitious or prideful. They do not yearn for “freedom”. They live in the moment and take joy in any form of attention, and for us, the pleasure is mutual. Winston’s spirit is far from dead, it shines and thrives in companionship, and that is a much better life than merely occupying a niche in the food chain.

    Get a dog, Keith. Unlike a cat, he’ll love you back. It’ll do you good, I promise. 🙂

    • #4 by Keith Spillett on December 1, 2013 - 6:01 PM

      Dang Jim! There you go using that logic! Grrrrr! Just when I thought I could safely pass the thing off as polemic. Awesome response (as always!)

      I agree with you that the article completely assumes to understand the point of view of dogs, which I believe to be impossible. But, I’m not quite convinced that the prevailing wisdom about the characteristics of dogs is correct and I’m also not sure it is possible for us to analyze the feelings of an animal without the old anthropomorphic fallacy getting in the way. How do we truly know they are not self-aware, greedy and terrified of their own mortality? And if our beliefs about them are untrue, think of what we have done to them. There is so much we do not know.

      I think that life in the wilderness is probably no picnic either. Personally, I prefer a house (with air conditioning), but I’m not clear that we can accurately capture what they want or need through science or any other means. What if they are merely beaten down by years of interaction with us and simply have given themselves over to become whatever we dream they may be.

      I don’t know if I’m going to get a pet. I had a fish once. I ate it.

      • #5 by Joel on February 12, 2014 - 7:47 PM

        I think there’s a bit of a category error happening here as well. ‘Species’ do not have a collective memory of halcyon days in the meadow. No individual organism recalls being “beaten down by years of interaction with us”; it lives in the present and wants what it wants when it wants it, like we do. I can guarantee you that my Weim/Shephard mix, who runs for 1.5 hours on the beach every day, does not pine for her days in the forest hunting for her own food; she never had any. She’s good with the chikn strips, clean water, soft bed and occasional unspoiled meat.

      • #6 by Keith Spillett on February 13, 2014 - 12:38 PM

        How can you guarantee what the thoughts are of a being you’ve never been?

  3. #7 by Jc Denton Anderson on December 1, 2013 - 6:48 PM

    Well said. Dogs suck, and their owners are even worse. Thank you for exposing this vast conspiracy!

    • #8 by Keith Spillett on December 1, 2013 - 6:51 PM

      I’m glad to have done my part to make America great once again.

  4. #9 by Craig Norman on December 1, 2013 - 7:40 PM

    ‘Kind of like a table”- are you telling me my dog is like James Hetfield? Damn. She’s never sold out, man.

    • #10 by Keith Spillett on December 1, 2013 - 7:50 PM

      Ha! I cracked up when I wrote that. Always have to have something for the metal heads!

  5. #11 by Keith Spillett on December 2, 2013 - 12:16 PM

    Squirrels have been force fed acorns as their accepted food source, and they resent this and are pissed! Watch out the rise of the squirrel!

  6. #12 by dosquirrelseverfall? on December 2, 2013 - 12:18 PM

    Oops, not Keith above…sorry K.

  7. #13 by Fried Chicken And Metal on December 3, 2013 - 7:29 AM

    Fact!! Forced slavery of another species. They’d have a more honorable life if they were eaten as food!!

  8. #14 by Thomas McGarr on December 5, 2013 - 3:25 AM

    This is my favorite post of yours. I actually like “non-toy” dogs. However, I do not own a dog. I live in a studio apartment in Portland, Oregon. Guess what? I see most of my fellow studio dwellers walking dogs every day. I think this is a crime. A very selfish one at that. You keep an animal locked up in a tiny apartment all day while you’re at work or off sipping lattes somewhere. You come home, take the dog on a 10 minute dump fest on the sidewalk or in someone’s front yard and go back inside and relish the fact that you’re not lonely because of your furry, neglected friend that has basically developed Stockholm Syndrome because you feed it and give it any attention it gets. Obviously, I’ve described a not so great scenario of a dog owner. There are gradations, to be sure.

    Most dogs I’ve met, lived with or been responsible for like to play and run and tear shit up and eat until they’re sick and attempt to fornicate at the drop of a dime…with anything. This is called being a dog. The fact we have to train another living creature sickens me. These aren’t beasts of burden. They are LIVING STUFFED ANIMALS. There are various reasons people own them. Most of the reasons I can think of range from well-intended superficiality to placating feelings of co-dependence. I’m not even considering the animal hoarders, that’s a whole other ball game.

    I grew up with a family dog (German Shepherd) that I feel had a good go of it. The last 4 years of his life were spent on 20 acres in warm weather. We loved him dearly as he was very sweet. He even got along with our cat. So, i’m not some pro-human/anti-dog zealot. I just think America needs to get a grip on the dog situation. If you live in a urban environment without a yard or access to “green space”, then don’t get a dog…please. I know, they’re cute and sometimes fun. They also need to be taken care of properly because they are living beings. Jim’s post above was very sensible and caring and I don’t necessarily disagree with him. I also don’t know the entire history of dog breeding, but you can’t tell me the majority of “dogs” most of us see were ever meant to be on this planet by natural means. Pugs can barely breathe properly and some of these other breeds I don’t even know the names of would lose in a fight against a squirrel.

    So, America: Please take a step back. Do you NEED a dog? Are you a hunter? Do you have property that could use a little security? Are you blind? Are you a police officer? Like people, dogs need purpose. Without purpose, they are driven to near psychosis because you want a cute toy that will draw attention to YOU. For that, you should be ashamed.

    • #15 by Keith Spillett on December 5, 2013 - 3:27 AM

      Eloquently stated Thomas. Thank you for taking the time to make such a powerful case!

      • #16 by Thomas McGarr on December 5, 2013 - 3:40 AM

        Thanks Keith, I will save you and your readers from my rant against dog owners that insist on taking their dogs to EVERY public place. That’s a big thing here in ol’ Portland and it grinds my gears.

      • #17 by Keith Spillett on December 5, 2013 - 6:51 AM

        Ha! You should have seen the paragraph on Service Animals that I took out. I would have had a mob with torches at my front door.

    • #18 by John Nelson on December 5, 2013 - 8:51 AM

      Children need to be trained not to do those things as well. Do you believe this is bad? Were you not trained and are currently posting from prison?

      • #19 by Thomas McGarr on December 5, 2013 - 1:40 PM

        I could have elaborated/left out the trained portion of my stream of consciousness rant. Of course I was “trained”…by fellow humans that brought me into this world. Not a family of Pomeranians that adopted me to show off to their other dog friends.

    • #20 by Jim Wheeler on December 5, 2013 - 9:21 AM

      I don’t disagree with you either, Thomas. You are right about the many who get a dog for the wrong reasons and lack the inclination and commitment to provide the companionship their natures crave. It is an especially important message at this time of year. Today’s puppy often has a lonely, neglectful future.

  9. #21 by John Nelson on December 5, 2013 - 8:52 AM

    We only have meat dogs at my place.

  10. #22 by Holly on December 6, 2013 - 3:05 PM

    So I should just release my dogs back into the wild as they once were many years ago? My dogs get out all the time and I don’t chase them down because they always come home.

    • #23 by Keith Spillett on December 6, 2013 - 3:34 PM

      Lock your door. They do not have thumbs and will not be able to operate a key.

  11. #24 by Hotmeal on December 24, 2013 - 8:29 PM

    Keith, you’re a brilliant writer and thinker! (no sarcasm – Dog article is my new favorite)

  12. #26 by AverageDrafter on June 27, 2015 - 11:59 AM

    Not going to deny, owning animals exercises the NEED for humans to OWN life. Full Stop. I got two dogs. I OWN them.

    • #27 by Keith Spillett on June 27, 2015 - 1:57 PM

      Good answer! I agree. Strange thing is, when you put it in those terms, it doesn’t bother me as much.

  13. #28 by tinyfangz on October 9, 2016 - 3:33 AM

    Unfortunately a lot of the mentioned is true. Dogs are often stripped off their dignity, they are left home alone for hours and hours, as single creatures, where they clearly need a pack to function naturally, generally not solitary creatures, and they get trained to perform tricks for the amusement of their owners. Same goes for many non human animals though. Horses locked away in stables, rabbits kept in small cages, birds unable to ever spread their wings! List is endless…
    Man’s cruelty and ignorance and ill need to control.

    That said though, to live in company with animals is not automatically a bad thing. My two horses roam free, pretty much wild (and still they come home once a day, because they want to, not because they have to), and the 8 dogs here certainly get plenty of pack life, no kennel, no chain, not even leads, they go running free in the forest when we go out, we howl together, we curl up together, most of this involving free will, as much as possible at least. Not many humans who can live like this though, and while we need to look at what we do to animals (eating meat, using products involving animal testing?), human life itself has turned sour on many many fronts. Children grow up in concrete jungles, people wake to alarm clocks and hasten to work they hate, subject to ruling forces living far removed from the average Joe – we are stripped of our dignity, our spirit and free will just the same.

    People are not automatically bad for wanting to live with animals. I think often it is more a case of longing to share the misery, or to keep this little contact still with that way of life long long eradicated from the average human existence. The human world is an ill world, and it makes humans ill, and the illness gets shared all around.

    • #29 by Keith Spillett on October 9, 2016 - 8:15 AM

      I agree with everything you wrote. That’s about as beautiful and eloquent a response as I’ve ever read. In a strange sort of way, I was trying to get at a similar point about the degredation of all life, humans included (albeit without really mentioning it), but your response nailed it better than I did.

      Thank you.

      • #30 by tinyfangz on October 10, 2016 - 4:06 AM

        We are all slaves to the machine. We are taught from an early age on that it is all about control and fences. The programming ends so deep, most can not even develop thoughts beyond it anymore, and so people don’t see anything wrong when they cage and control and use, because that’s what has been happening to them from basically the cradle on.

        Nature tribes tend to still be closest to our original nature, but we call them savages and uncivilized, and where ever the system meets nature tribes, it forces them to abandon a way of life that still knows free spirit.

        It is utterly sad and frightening. Yes we have toasters and iPhones, but we have lost our souls, and we are sacrificing the souls of anything and anyone alongside with us 😥

        All the best to you. Critical thinkers and people still questioning are the faint shimmer of hope we have left.

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