ISSUE: Who is Who?
Lucy Writes:

The matter of dog ownership/pet ownership has been on my mind for some time, and I wonder if the think tank could get together and give me some feedback.  Is Dog Owner or Pet Owner really the right term to describe the sometimes complex relationship between a human and a canine?  Can one really OWN another living soul?  I often say I own five humans, and although this is usually more accurate, is this really the best term to use?  What better term can we come up with that would more accurately describe the relationship between human and canine?  The term I prefer is Pet Guardian.  What do you prefer?


Mayu & Kiri
Relationship with humans: My relationship with my humans is quite different than ownership or even guardianship, although guardianship is much preferred to ownership. Mom is head of the pack and does her best to make sure we have the best food and comfort, in turn we alert Mom and Dad to anything going on outside that might be important.  Mom is always referring to us as her kids, her second family so she is our teacher too. We have to learn our lessons on behavior and how to get along with each other and to play with our toys and leave Mom and Dad's stuff alone.  Katie is having a hard time with that lesson but she'll learn eventually.  So, we're really family here which leaves out ownership. I'll check in to see what the other Think Tank members thoughts are.

"Is Dog Owner or Pet Owner really the right term to describe the sometimes complex relationship between a human and a canine?  Can one really OWN another living soul?"

Dear Mickey, The above is copied directly from your note to me of last Tuesday. I have been pondering.

I am not sure what Lucy is getting at, and it could be useful to clarify further.   On one level, the question is semantic: how should you describe the relationship between humanoid and canine. On another level, and probably the one that Lucy is interested in, the question is what should the relationship be like, and then, and only then, what are the words to describe it. And the words don't really matter, if the relationship is "appropriate".

I would suggest that there are many many different types of relationships. Undoubtedly, there are people who like the brutal and dominating relationship they have with their dog/dogs. It makes them look and feel powerful-- and even mean is cool. And, for the most part, the law is on their side unless the dog is severely abused, as in Virginia dogs and cats -- companion animals -- are  part of personal property without rights. There are others who probably think that they are kind to dogs, but the dog is left out on a chain without shelter from the bugs or the weather, without medical attention or preventative treatments. Then there are the puppy millers who frequently breed badly formed, unhealthy animals for profit with no thought of the pain and suffering that this process causes. Some hunting dogs are kept in pens except for the few months a year that they are taken out to hunt. And with many gradations in between, there are those who  would opt to take care of their animals, to the best of their ability, before they take care of themselves, though many of these would be reluctant to put an animal down in a timely manner, and might even be concerned about what will happen to their pets when they are no longer able to take care of them. You could use "guardian" to describe any of these relationships -- after all, Richard the III was the guardian of his nephews.

I take it that Lucy really wants us to think of ways to encourage good canine- humanoid relationships whereby both sides are happy with the relationship.  Education might help, in some circumstances: with the young, giving classes in animal care in schools, daycare, headstart would help address basic ignorance. Adult owners might benefit from further information on what financial assistance might be available in getting animals neutered and spayed. Efforts to provide  pets better legal protection (I believe the situation in Virginia is especially weak) and strengthening animal rescue/humane groups would be another approach. as well. And then there is also enforcing the laws already on the books on dog and cock fighting etc. But I ramble.

Lets ask Lucy to comment! And then we can regroup and take it from there.
As ever, yours faithfully,
Vita Whittome

The weather in Collingwood, Ontario, Canada has been bizarre to say the least; the first weeks of April were a heat wave, with everyone in tank tops, shorts and sandals, and the temperature pushing 90. Then, even yesterday morning, we woke up to SNOW on the deck!! Snow - now what self-respecting Boston wants to get their feet all cold and wet after blissful days of basking in bright pools of sunshine? We always blame Kelly and Dave for the weather changes, I mean they play with us in the bright warm outdoors and then when we wake up, everything has changed. Somebody has to be responsible, right? And it can't be us three because we're sleeping like angels when it happens, right?

See, that kinda' brings us to our topic of discussion. For all of our extreme intelligence and powerful personalities, we look to our humans for just about everything. Love and affection, food and shelter, treats, vet care, car rides, treats, toys and more toys, treats... which makes us childlike in our dependency. So we don't mind being referred to as "the kids", and we feel even more loved and secure when our "pet owners" or "pet guardians" refer to themselves as Mommy and Daddy. Without any human brothers or sisters, Zelda, Zoe and I are the children of our five member family. So if you're lucky enough to have humans that don't mind having four-legged, furry little snub-nosed kids' pictures in their wallets, well, we're happy to call them our parents!! They are all kinds of families!

Winston Dreyfus and his "sisters" Zelda and Zoe.

Is dog owner or pet owner really the right term to describe the sometimes complex relationship between a human and a canine? Can one really own another living soul?

Apparently, I have been delinquent in responding to Think Tank issues. My apologies but I do rely on my family for the technical response. They say they are involved in yard work and landscaping their new home for the summer but will try to do better?

My answer to your first question - No! My answer to your second question - No!

I reject the concept of being owned by a human. And they know it! Dogs don't own dogs or cats, etc. They live in packs (families) with a designated leader, a relationship that has existed since primitive times with our ancestors - Canis lupus. Dogs have helped humans since prehistoric time, most likely with canines cooperating for mutual survival. I'll help you if you help me! We'll hunt together to eat! We'll live together for protection! Would humans have survived without animals? Especially without canines?

Unfortunately over the eons, humans have developed the idea of ownership through the idea of dominance. Some religions have beliefs that humans have dominance over all other forms of life. In Genesis, there are passages about humans being made and having dominion over animals, crawling creatures and sea life. In other religions, animals are considered sacred and revered. Yet, in Hong Kong, puppies are sold for food! And the U.S. has its puppy mills. We have a long way to go to provide protection for dogs and other animals not as fortunate as us in the thank Tank.

You prefer the term Pet Guardian. I think a city in California (where else?), in the San Francisco area, adopted the term Pet Guardian in official documents for Human/Dog relationships. Maybe Berkeley (where else?)

I survived the Dog Master/Owner relationship - barely. Fortunately, with the Whittomes and Bonnefond's I live as a member of the family. And with the Whittome's that family includes dogs, cats, horses, and mules.

I would prefer the term Canine Family Member on legal documents.!

Dear Mickey, In answer to your question about "dog owners", this is the way it works for us. We call her Mom and she calls us her children or her babies. She also has two "granddogs", who are our "cousins." Our litter mates are brothers and sisters. The phrase "just a dog" does not exist in our household. We like the designation "my family." Anthropomorphism? Why not? The human/animal relationship is perfect for this. Gin-Gin agrees.
Yours truly, Jamie
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