2010.11.10 Pets are our children

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Did you ever think about how humans are the only animals on Earth that keep pets? The only ones to make baby-talk to small, furry creatures that haven’t yet learned how to communicate in human-talk?

Actually, there were some wild capuchin monkeys in Brazil observed taking care of a little pet marmoset. It’s a much smaller monkey—quite different from the capuchin in many ways.

There have been many reports of pets among captive animals, but this was unusual because it was in the wilds. Sort of in the wilds. It was in an eco-tourism project where there was a lot of interaction betwixt humans and monkeys.

The capuchins fed their little friend, talked to it, let it ride around on their backs, just like the guy I saw in a parking lot in Toledo last month. He had his little dog wrapped around his neck while he sat in his car.

The marmoset hung around for 14 months and then disappeared.

Hal Herzog, a noted psychologist who studies human/animal relationships, doesn’t buy the pet theory. He thinks it was just a case of adoption.

It’s true that wild chimpanzees play with little animals like the hyrax, a little shrew-like mammal, but before long, the chimps kill their little pal and toss the corpse around like a rag doll. It’s kind of a one-side relationship.

Herzog talks about a study that discovered the importance of eye size. It’s why people want to save the pandas, but don’t give a darn about the world’s largest amphibian—the endangered giant Chinese salamander that Herzog describes as 100-pound, six-foot bag of brown slime...with beady little eyes.

That brings to mind the poor beady-eyed chicken. In the 1930s Americans ate about half a pound of chicken a year. A real rarity. Possum was probably more popular. Now the average is up to 90 pounds annually.

Attitudes change through the centuries. There was a time when Greeks and Romans conducted full-fledged funerals for pets. A couple of hundred years ago, ornamental mice were the popular pet in Japan. Today kids go for giant stag beetles.

There was a time when cat hatred broke out France and torture became a source of amusement. In our current era, you can buy health insurance for your pet.

Herzog has a new book about animals called “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat.” He really takes readers into the cultural aspects. It’s not just that we don’t eat dog, he said in an NPR interview...

it’s the idea of eating dog is absolutely revolting. Dogs have been brought into our homes. They sleep in our beds, in many case, they eat at the table. We dress them in clothes. You can buy beer for your dog now that’s non-alcoholic, by the way. And so the idea of eating a dog is almost like eating a kid. It would be a form of cannibalism.

Herzog thinks pet-keeping is something learned—something that only humans can learn. Lots of animals fall for the rounded face/big eyes thing that leads us to take care of children, but there are social rules that tell you it’s OK to talk to a parrot and treat it like a child.

However, not everyone learns these rules. An anthropologist in Keyna told Herzog there isn’t even a word for pet in his language. It’s common to have a mongrel guard dog, but it sure isn’t going to come into the house and sleep on your bed.

A survey in Sri Lanka found that 90 percent of the Buddhist homes had pets and only five percent of the Muslim families.

Another study looked at pet-keeping in 60 cultures. Most of them had pets, but some people ended up eating their pets.  Dogs ended up on the dinner plate in more cultures than in those where the pet rules the house. In some cultures, lactating mothers don’t find it unusual to breastfeed pigs, puppies, monkeys and bear cubs.

Reading that sentence should cause me to never again make fun of a guy with a dog around his neck, but it won’t. I’m still amused.

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
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    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
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    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
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    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
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    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
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    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
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