Acknowledging, and appreciating, the unique companionship dogs offer humans is what sets us apart, individually and as a community. I also believe how we treat dogs reflects our culture, and our own humanity.
If you see a dog as your baby, than it's likely you'll care for them as a parent. With my dog, we treated her sometimes as a roommate, expecting her to contribute to the household, yet letting it slide when she left behind a mess after dinner.
What if you see dogs as roaming animals? While in Turkey last year, in some places I saw dogs tied up outside with, and without, shelter or water. They roamed city streets, sometimes wary and hesitant around people, while at other times a dog seemed quite comfortable being near strangers.
My experience in Turkey showed me that generally the Turkish people weren't cruel towards dogs, but they also were unlikely to bring a dog into their home as a companion. It was fascinating to observe and think about because, as you can see from the photo above, we Americans couldn't stop ourselves from getting close to the dogs, willing them to engage with us.
“I used to think pet-keeping was a fundamental attribute of human nature — it evoked our parental instincts,” Hal Herzog told the Washington Post this week. “The thing is I no longer believe that. I think that culture trumps biology, because there are cultures that don’t even have a word for pet.” (Source)
Dr. Herzog is spot on! Having observed first-hand how the Turkish people interacted with dogs in the city, and countryside, I can see now why a culture might not have a word for pet.
After that trip, I'm more appreciative of the cultural evolution of our views towards animals as pets within the US. I'm definitely influenced, positively, from my childhood exposure to dogs. It's where I developed the expectation that a dog would contribute in some way to the family unit, whether as a companion or protector or therapist.
I'll admit it was very difficult for me to witness the distant relationship between the Turkish people and the dogs. I appreciated the tolerance shown, but the country and culture is far from seeing dogs as companions.