Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Comparing the Lives of Stray Dogs and Pets

I took these two photographs at around the same time in Chiang Mai in Thailand. Of course, neither truly represents the vast diversity found in either pets or stray dogs and they were deliberately selected to make a point but nevertheless to me they make a striking comparison.

The dressed-up dog strapped into an unnatural position in a radio-controlled car is collecting money for “abandoned friends” (but there is no indication as to how these ex-pets would be helped or by whom). This animal is a pet dog.

The other photograph shows a dog at a nearby temple. It is unowned and quite possibly one of the “abandoned friends” the car-driver wants to help. This is a stray dog.

Which one has the better life? I am not a dog so I don’t know the answer. Maybe I caught the pet at a bad moment in it’s life and the stray at a good moment. Perhaps the pet is allowed to be a dog for the rest of the time or even actually enjoys being forced to act as a little person. Perhaps the stray that leads a life of apparent leisure and decides its own activities with others of its own kind actually struggles to find enough food and suffers from internal parasites. Perhaps.

The question is clouded by the fact that we use our own values to judge dogs and our own values have become increasingly separated from the natural world towards artificial comforts and security. I see more and more toy dogs being carried everywhere, dressed-up like children and fluffed-up with cosmetics but however clean, pampered and safe they are I feel sorry for them far more than many of the strays wandering the streets.

I’m sure a great many pet dogs lead great lives but I wish all pet owners would genuinely try to see things from their pet’s point of view and recognise the fact that their dog is a dog not a furry person. Using a pet to satisfy your needs whilst ignoring its own does not seem loving to me. 

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