By SERENA NELSON
I’ve always been uncomfortable with calling myself a dog owner. You see while I love my dog very much, I don’t like calling myself her ‘owner’ as to me that makes her seem like a possession. A ‘Thing’. Call me a car owner? That’s fine. A home owner? I wish. But a dog owner? Not so much. It’s weird I know, but on a personal level it just doesn’t sit well with me.
You see, we currently live in a world where, for many people, animals are a commodity. They are things to be used, traded, exploited and discarded. We use rabbits to test our makeup, cram chickens into cages to collect their eggs, factory farm cows and their young to eat their flesh and drink their milk. We buy puppies only to abandon them in old age. We wear animal skins on our feet and back. We carry their hides as purses, or decorate our bodies with their fur. We use their bones in our potions and lotions. For some animals they become our eyes to guide us in the world, others our prized possessions to be traded for profit. They risk their lives for us in dangerous situations, carry the heavy loads we cannot bear, and sit in enclosures for our amusement. To be an animal in 2012 is a dangerous prospect.
Feeling guilty? Me too. But this is not an article to disparage people’s personal choices related to the issues above. For me I still eat fish and wear leather shoes, while at the same time I adamantly deplore the use of animal testing and factory farming. I’m a walking, talking contradiction. Every day I try to do better. BE better.
But despite all this, there is one thing I can define clearly. When I watch my dog play with a new toy, cuddle up to me at the end of the day, or just sit in the garden to take in the sunlight, I don’t see a possession. I don’t see a commodity. I see a life. I see a living, breathing creature with a spirit. I see a soul with the ability to feel happiness, sadness, pain, joy, loss, excitement and everything in between. My dog is as real as you and me, and deserves a life as fulfilled as yours and mine.
This insight is not restricted to my loyal friend of 11 years. When I see cows dancing at their release into the open after a life without sunlight, or watch laboratory Beagles feel grass under their feet for the very first time; I see that spirit. When I watch the reassuring embrace of test Chimps upon their transfer into a natural habitat, or watch dogs welcome home their military owners from deployment, it is there.