Dogs Are Not People

Colin Dayan in the Boston Review:

Dayan-dogMRI-webBooks abound on dog love, loving dogs, what it means to have or be with a dog. With all the writing about dogs, it might seem that we are too much infatuated with their unique qualities. But that is not it at all.

Even while we are ostensibly doing everything in our power to ascertain the nature and desires of dogs, the questions we ask obscure or betray what is most salient about them and necessary to their lives. And through it all—the testing and the loving, the ownership and the training, the argument for dog rights and the facts of their disposal—we never question the status of the human as a problem not a privilege.

To say, as Gregory Berns does in his new book How Dogs Love Us and his recent New York Times op-ed “Dogs are People, Too,” that dogs have the reasoning capacity of a young child is to continue to ignore what it is that dogs possess that we do not. Dogs are not people. Dogs are not humans. But we are desperate to appropriate whatever it means to be dog and to make that over in our image.

The urge to characterize dogs as like ourselves speaks to our ignorance and to the failure of imagination. As humans who control the arena of judgment, we cannot brook the humility demanded in confronting what we cannot understand, what we do not know.

More here.

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