Humans have domesticated and kept animals since the earliest times. Then, even as now, we shared our food and domestic arrangements with these furry friends. And they, like us, flourished because of the construct. Today, cats, dogs and just about every other sort of manageable beast from boa to potbelly can be found alongside Homo sapiens. To be sure, we benefit from the relationship. In fact, many people-serving institutions, from retirement homes, centers for the disabled and even prisons, include pet “therapy” in their work.
Studies show that interaction with animals can bring profound change in the demeanor and, in some cases, the actual intellectual and physical capacity of a person. And dogs have been assisting the blind and those afflicted with seizures for generations. Likewise, many police departments rely heavily on the contribution of their canine counterparts. So what is it that our loyal companions hope to find from us in return?
Sure, it is good to be in the company of the king of the food chain. Our pets, in the best cases, are well-treated members of the family. They can expect to live long lives secure from the threats that their wild cousins must endure. One is reminded of the great scene from the Disney classic “Lady & the Tramp,” wherein Tramp tries to convince Lady that the undomesticated life is best. Perhaps it is a thinly veil comment at when any of us choose marriage over the single life, but it also gets at the point that the sacrifice of domestication is well compensated.
Yet likewise, alongside many of us, our animals endure the worst of the human condition. Some are beaten. Some are eaten. Yet they stay close as if somehow knowing, even if we humans forget, we are all better and safer for being together.