Shall I Never Go to the Park Again?

Elaine Vigneault believes that pet ownership is wrong, specifically that owning a dog is wrong.

There’s a whole level of offensiveness to this argument along the lines of owning pets is akin to owning slaves that I’d like to bypass (for a while, at least).

I’d like to just talk about dogs and humans. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that dogs were domesticated about 10,000-12,000 years ago. And then we learned to farm. And read and write. In other words, it wasn’t just that the wolf became dog by our interactions; we became “us” because of the dog.

It makes no sense to me to argue that people should not own dogs. Without people, there is no such thing as ‘dog.’ There are just wolves. Do militant animal rights activists really want to do away with the dog as an animal?

Also, how can one argue against dog ownership if the dogs don’t mind? When I’m sleeping, if it’s just me, Mrs. Wigglebottom curls up in the crook of my leg. If she were enslaved, wouldn’t she rip my throat out? When she gets off-leash, she could run off. Instead, she just waits for me to fix her collar and we move on.

Being a pet is not a bad gig for a dog. They get food and shelter and medical care.

But I was thinking about how some of the animal rights activists wanted to make an exception for service dogs. And I kind of want to say, in response to that, it must be nice to live in your world.

I don’t have that luxury.

I’m able to live where I live without fear because I have a dog.

I go to the park when I want to regardless of other people’s schedules, because I have a dog.

I am happy to get in my car and drive by myself to my parents’ house seven hours away because I have a dog.

There’s not a place I’m afraid to drive when my dog is in my car with me.

There are very few places I’m nervous about walking when my dog’s with me.

I barely give being home alone a second thought because my dog is here.

I am not afraid of strange men coming up and talking to me when I have my dog with me.

I’m not afraid of exploring new places.

And so on.

I’ll admit that I’m more neurotic than your average person.

But I look at my brothers and my male friends and I see them moving through the world without fear. They think nothing of going where they want and doing what they want when they want to do it. Even by themselves.

The closest I come to feeling that way is with Mrs. Wigglebottom.

And to suggest that my freedom is immoral because I have to own a dog in order to have it? That’s so offensive to me. That, in order to be a good feminist, I should concede living in fear of the world, because owning dogs is unfair to the dogs.

When, again, is it my turn? First I had to wait for men to get their shit straightened out before I could be truly free and now I have to wait until my freedom doesn’t hurt potential human life before I can have it and now it turns out that even dogs are in line for human rights before me?

Ridiculous.

22 thoughts on “Shall I Never Go to the Park Again?

  1. Why does this post show up when I click on the link in the comments on the “On Not Being ‘Nice'” thread, but not otherwise?

  2. Does having a dog yield insight into one’s personality or temprament? Does the breed of dog matter? What characteristics do different people look for in a dog?

    I like dogs. We have a dog. Never been a cat-man (perhaps because I like birds).

  3. Well, I don’t know much about dogs except that I’ve enjoyed living with them, and that when my roommate had I dog I too felt much safer.
    But I do know about cats. Now, some cats aren’t like dogs – some cats like to act like they’re one unscooped litterbox away from being feral anyway. So one might make a better argument against owning cats, since they don’t always exhibit as many of the slavish dog interactions (YAY my leash, YAY my controlled environment!).
    But then, I also know about unowned cat communities. Cats that got away, became feral, joined clutters, and had millions and millions of kittens. Most of them die fairly miserable deaths – the city is a terrible place for a cat to be “wild.” So I’m thinking it’s kind of unethical to NOT own cats. What’s the other option… mass euthanasia?

    There are exceptions, of course… Rome is dotted with cat communities where the cats live in kind of enclosed areas, usually ruins that have been excavated, and they’re neutered and fed and checked on periodically. They seem pretty pleased to be unowned… but they’re no more wild than animals in a zoo. Good thing too, cause Rome is a murderous place with those scooters…

  4. So one might make a better argument against owning cats, since they don’t always exhibit as many of the slavish dog interactions (YAY my leash, YAY my controlled environment!).

    Cats are not pack animals, but they are social animals. Humans and cats have been living together for as long as humans and dogs. I have three. One as a feral a rescued out of the snow. He knows what outside is like and as a result is petrified of the door. He’ll look at it through the window but I could leave the front door wide open and he’d just go hide under the bed. The other two have both gotten out (one once, the other twice). In all instances, the moment they realized they were outside, the turned around and scratched on the door to get back in. I think that illustrates well enough that at least MY cats aren’t desperate to escape but rather enjoy their home with me.

  5. Isn’t there a lot of evidence that while many domesticated animals (dogs, horses, cattle, etc.) evolved over time to live with each other? So that while the original act of domestication can be viewed (at least metaphorically) as an enslavement, I suppose, the reality after hundreds of human generations and thousands of non-human animal generations is more a symbiosis than a master/slave one. In addition, some very provocative recent information about domestic cats suggests that they fairly unilaterally domesticated themselves, and are completely outside the usual human/non-human paradigm.

  6. In addition, some very provocative recent information about domestic cats suggests that they fairly unilaterally domesticated themselves, and are completely outside the usual human/non-human paradigm.

    I’d be interested in reading that information if you’ve got a link or resource handy. Sounds interesting.

    I’ve always felt that cats chose to live with humans as much as humans chose to live with cats (not on an individual basis of course). My understanding has been that there was never a formal move to domesticate a cat but rather cats just kind of “moved in” to the cities. Humans didn’t mind since the cats killed off disease-carrying rodents. So it was more a matter of cats deciding that they didn’t mind living with humans (and the perks that went along with that) at the same time as humans deciding they didn’t mind living with cats (with the perks that went along with that).

  7. Pretty much like that. There was an article in Science about it in June. Here’s a link to an article about it in the NY Times. And this link should take you to the abstract of the original Science article, but I can’t get it to load.

  8. The people who live behind me treat their dogs pretty badly. On the other hand, my dog lives the life of Riley- he eats only organic food, I cook him up a steak on his birthday, let him in and out of my bedroom 1,000 times a day, take him outside when he feels like going outside, and give him a bazillion ear skritches a day. If that’s being treated badly, I’d like to have some of that treatment, haha. Well, other than the ear skritches, I’m not a fan like Tiny is.

  9. > Elaine Vigneault believes that pet ownership is wrong, specifically that owning a dog is wrong.

    Much like the abortion issue: if you think that it’s wrong, then don’t have one.

    > There’s a whole level of offensiveness to this argument along the lines of owning pets is akin to owning slaves … some of the animal rights activists wanted to make an exception for service dogs.

    So are they saying that handicapped people should be allowed to own human slaves as well? If this is a principled stand, then how can they equate pet ownership with slavery, advocate owning service animals, and not advocate owning human “service animals”? Obviously, they don’t really believe their own BS.

  10. Pingback: Moving Through the World as a Woman « Women’s Health News

  11. If she thinks we shouldn’t own dogs, does that mean she thinks strays are better off that pets? This is the same kind of lunacy that leads people to “liberate” animals from research facilities, leaving them to run off and get hit by a car (if lucky) or die a slow death from starvation and cold.

  12. If she thinks we shouldn’t own dogs, does that mean she thinks strays are better off that pets? This is the same kind of lunacy that leads people to “liberate” animals from research facilities, leaving them to run off and get hit by a car (if lucky) or die a slow death from starvation and cold.

    Don’t expect rational thought from ALL animal rights activists. Most are sincere, and operating from reality…and others are just plain out there!

    Elaine is definitely on my shit list for this one.

    We’re rural folk, and the years of rescuing the abused, neglected and starved canines that get dumped out here has robbed me of any patience with PETA extremists. The whole idea of “free range dogs ” is bizarre, unworkable, ultimately tragic… and so obvious in its insanity…

  13. Forgive me for chiming in here, but I’ve been intermittently following this flame war and it seems to me that you are mis-characterizing Ms. Vigneault’s argument. Not that I agree with her by any stretch of the imagination, but it sees that she believes that having a dog is fine, but buying a dog is immoral.

    If you’re going to continue to engage her in this dispute, it seems to me that an accurate perception of her grievance against Jessica, zuzu, and others would be essential.

  14. Well, then, TRex, pray tell, how in the world does one acquire a dog if not through purchasing it? Other than to stand in ahunt’s front yard and wait for some jackass to toss a puppy out of the car, there exists very few mechanisms for a non-dog owner to come by a dog other than through exchanging money for it.

    If I get a dog from the Nashvilel Humane Association, I can expect to pay anywhere from $45 to $160 for it. If I get it from the place that “gives” puppies away for free, I still have to promise to pay for all its shots and take it to their vet for the next year, so they’re making money from the sale of the puppy. I’m still exchanging money for the dog, which, as far as I can tell, constitutes buying it.

    I don’t disagree with you that she is indeed now trying to say that having a dog is fine, it’s jusy buying it that’s the problem, but she’s not been consistant in that argument and, in fact, if you read her, you’ll see that she links approvingly to a comment over at Salon which specifically equates pet ownership, as well as other treatment of animals, as akin to slavery.

    If I’m wrongly perceiving her, I apologize. I only have what she’s written and linked approvingly to to go by.

  15. Well, then, TRex, pray tell, how in the world does one acquire a dog if not through purchasing it?

    Well, it seems that she recommends adoption, which, granted, may entail a fee, but seeks to place homeless animals into homes, rather than buying from a breeder who is producing animals for sale. Humane societies and shelters may charge a fee for the upkeep of their facilities and medical care for the animals in their charge, but I don’t think anyone who works at an animal shelter would tell you that they’re in it for the money.

    I’m not attacking you, but merely suggesting that if you want to argue with Ms. Vingeault, you should make sure that you’re arguing with her actual statements rather than a misstatement of her beliefs. She has a dog of her own, apparently, so I don’t see how she could be construed as being against dog ownership as your post maintains.

    FULL DISCLOSURE: I have two cats, both Siamese. One was a rescue (he’s 19 years old now) and one came (gasp!) from a breeder (he’s eight). I think Siamese cats are really, really special and want to have at least two living with me for the rest of my life. While I can see Ms. Vigneault’s point, I hesitate to go all holier-than-thou on anyone who, like myself, is a fan of a specific breed and wants that particular type of creature as their companion.

    Also, I think that there are massive, gaping holes in her logic equating the struggle for women’s equality with the animal rights crusade. It’s entirely spurious and I personally believe that a woman can be a total kick-ass freedom-fighter for gender equality and still enjoy the occasional bowl of chicken soup or a fish sandwich or even a steak. But one thing I think we all have been trying to learn over the last couple of years is that none of us are really in a position to judge other people’s ideological bona-fides.

    Unless they’re Republicans, in which case they deserve to be humiliated, crushed, and destroyed by All Means Necessary.

  16. TRex, I wonder, too, how she could be against dog ownership and yet have a dog, but I assume she has it worked out in her head. I’m willing to entertain that I might be misunderstanding her position, but I’m not deliberately mischaracterizing it. I understand her to be saying that pet ownership is akin to slavery and that buying a dog from a breeder is really, really bad because it’s a place where our relationship to animals comes very, very close to being the same as human slavery.

    Here’s the other thing, and I’ll be honest with you, just because. And again, I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think I am. I think there’s a certain kind of privilege that can be read into someone saying “Get your dogs from a shelter, not from a breeder! There are so many dogs in shelters.” One person, depending on her background, might hear that as “Listen, there are so many folks who have so fucked up when it comes to their ability to own dogs, folks who are not like us, of course, that their dogs have ended up in the shelter and we, because we are so big-hearted, generous, and morally superior to them, will open our hearts to these discarded dogs.”

    Another person might hear “You, specifically, have no business owning a purebred dog and so you must be guilted and shamed into going to the shelter and taking a dog someone else has already fucked up in regards to.”

    I, personally, get tired of being told that my desire to have aesthetically pleasing things should not be filled until we’ve taken care of someone else’s mistakes.

    I think it’s a noble and good thing to adopt a dog from the shelter. But it’s not wrong to want a pure-breed dog, either.

    Why, if what I want is available and legal and I can afford it, should I be required to take what someone else didn’t want?

  17. I currently have 3 cats. Two were strays that were taken in, the third came from a shelter. I plan to have a dog in the next 2 years or so (once we get our house built).

    My dog is unlikely to be a shelter-dog, because I have wanted a sheltie since I was in Elementary school and a good friend of mine’s parents breed shelties so I already have a source to get one for a good price. Here’s my question, are those pure-bred shelties less deserving of a loving home than a shelter-dog would be?

  18. YAH…Aunt B…

    You’d have a dog even if there were no “implications.”

    You’d have a dog because dogs are God’s greatest gifty us. You’d have a dog because a dog needed you. Or you would have a dog for no other reason than that you like dogs…but you would have a dog.

    I like dogs too…even when they figure out how to game the supposedly secure garbage drawer…

    I’m taking a long breath here…and imagining a world without dogs who game my garbage system…and not liking it, at all.

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