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.

  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016